Physical Activity May Lower Risk for Depression in Adults

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There may be substantial mental health benefits from being physically active.

HealthDay News — There may be substantial mental health benefits from being physically active, according to a review published online April 13 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Matthew Pearce, Ph.D., from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to identify prospective cohort studies reporting physical activity at three or more exposure levels and risk estimates for depression with ≥3,000 adults and at least three years of follow-up.

Based on a meta-analysis of data from 15 studies (191,130 participants), the researchers found an inverse curvilinear dose-response association between physical activity and depression, with steeper association gradients at lower activity volumes. Adults accumulating half the recommended volume of physical activity (4.4 marginal metabolic equivalent task [mMET] hours per week) had an 18% lower risk for depression than adults not reporting any activity. Risk was 25% lower for adults accumulating the recommended volume of 8.8 mMET hours per week, with diminishing potential benefits and higher uncertainty beyond that level. If less active adults had achieved the current physical activity recommendations, an estimated 11.5% of depression cases could have been prevented.

“Health practitioners should therefore encourage any increase in physical activity to improve mental health,” the authors write.

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