Exercise helps beat depression even in people with family history – study

Just 30 minutes of exercise per day can help beat depression – even in people with a family history of the condition, research suggests.

A new study found that activities such as yoga and dance classes, or using a treadmill, cross-trainer or rowing machine, could lower the risk of depression by 17% for every 30 minutes per day on average.

Compared to couch potatoes, people who exercised for about 30 minutes a day had a lower risk, but even those who were more active benefited from increasing their exercise.

In fact, the more exercise people did, the lower their risk of depression overall, the study suggested.

Running and walking were found to help protect against depression, but were not as effective as aerobic classes, yoga, stretching and gym-based machine workouts.

The study examined data for 7,968 people, including 628 people who had been diagnosed with depression during a two-year period.

The results, published in the journal Depression And Anxiety, showed that people who exercised for at least several hours each week (at least 30 minutes per day) were less likely to be diagnosed with a new episode of depression, even in the face of a high genetic risk for the disorder.

Karmel Choi, from the Harvard school of public health in the US, and lead author of the study, said: “Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralise the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable.”

He said exercising for an extra 30 minutes or so per day “may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes.

“We provide promising evidence that primary care and mental health providers can use to counsel and make recommendations to patients that here is something meaningful they can do to lower their risk even if they have a family history of depression.”

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