How Much Exercise You Need to Ward Off Depression (It’s Less Than You Think)

By | October 25, 2018

When it comes to boosting your mood, we’ve long known that exercise has a positive effect. But now, researchers have shown that the amount of exercise you need to help prevent depression is much lower than many of us ever realized.

A new study completed by the Black Dog Institute and published in the journal American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that a little bit of exercise can help in lowering rates of depression. After studying nearly 34,000 adult participants, and monitoring their exercise and mental health, they found that 12 percent of the cases could have been prevented if they had taken up just one hour of exercise per week. And while 12 percent may not seem like an overwhelming number, any amount of prevention can really make a difference.

“We’ve known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” said lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey, from Black Dog Institute and UNSW, in a press release. “These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise – from one hour per week – can deliver significant protection against depression.

woman workout mental health

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Between the physical effects of a workout and the social benefits of attending a gym or workout class, researchers have found that increasing your physical activity levels, even just by those 60 minutes, can have a powerful effect on your mental health.

“If we can find ways to increase the population’s level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits,” Harvey continues.

Those 60 minutes come out to just 0.5 percent of your entire week. If just one half of one percent of your time for the entire week can be devoted to a workout routine, you could see significant benefits.

woman yoga mental health depression

Photo by Jesse Ballantyne on Unsplash

Another study, published just two weeks after the first, confirmed the findings and showed that cardio workouts, in particular, contribute to this effect. The second study, which appears in Depression and Anxiety, notes that any cardio workout, whether it’s high or low-intensity just as long as it gets your blood pumping, can help to prevent depression, as part of a bigger mental health treatment plan.

So if moving for just one hour each week can help to significantly improve your mental health, it’s time for all of us to take out those 60 minutes for a little more cardio.