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Help Overcome Depression, How Long Should We Exercise Every Week

Physical activity is known to help with depression. Even according to recent data, small doses of physical activity, such as brisk walking, can substantially lower the risk of depression.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended level of exercise for citizens in the United States includes moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) for 2.5 hours a week, coupled with exercising all major muscle groups twice a week.

Alternatively, one can choose vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running, for 1.25 hours each week, coupled with the same amount of strength training.

According to the CDC, moderate to vigorous exercise is good for us. It improves sleep; lowering blood pressure; protects against heart disease, diabetes and cancer; reduce stress; improve mood; and fights anxiety and depression.

But in today's busy world, many people find it difficult to go for a jog or visit the gym. Experts say that coupled with depression, the motivation to exercise decreases.

The meta-analysis, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, looked at 15 studies involving more than 190,000 people to determine how much exercise was needed to reduce depression.

The study found adults who did the equivalent of 1.25 hours of brisk walking per week had an 18 percent lower risk of depression compared to those who didn't exercise.

Studies show the benefits are most pronounced when individuals switch from being inactive to adding movement to the day. However, exercising above the recommended level provides no additional benefit.

"Our findings have important new implications for healthcare practitioners making lifestyle recommendations, particularly for sedentary individuals who may find current recommended targets (exercise) unrealistic," write the authors.

Meanwhile, a study published in 2018 found similar results. People who exercised had about 43 percent fewer days of poor mental health.

"Even just walking three times a week seems to provide better mental health than no exercise at all," study author Adam Chekroud, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, told CNN at the time.

A 2018 study found exercising in 45-minute sessions three to five times a week was the most beneficial for improving mental health.

In fact, even doing household chores can reduce bad mental health days by about 10 percent.

A study published in 2020 found that even moderate exercise helps protect children from depression. A 2020 study revealed that 60 minutes of simple movement daily at age 12 was associated with an average 10 percent reduction in depression by age 18.

Types of movement include running, cycling and walking, as well as everyday activities such as doing housework, painting or playing a musical instrument.

Photo: Pexels/Tobi

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