Exercise is a crucial component of health and wellbeing, and the American Heart Association considers exercise to be a core component of maintaining and improving heart health. A new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open has shown that relatively small doses of exercise may also be an important aspect of improving mental health and reducing the risk of depression in older adults.
The study included 10 years of data on over 4,000 older adults in Ireland. Levels of physical activity as well and depressive symptoms were monitored throughout the study. The study included adults over the age of 50, and the goal of the study was to find the lowest dose of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity that could protect against the symptoms of depression.
The results showed that just 20 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, such as brisk walking, for five days per week was associated with a 16% lower rate of symptoms of depression and a 43% lower chance of developing major depressive disorder. Higher levels of physical activity were associated with even greater reduced risks of depression and depressive symptoms, with 120 minutes per day (the highest category in the study) showing the greatest reductions in risk.
The authors of the study noted that these results are particularly important given the aging population in many parts of the world and the increased risk of depression associated with aging. To get the recommended amount of physical activity, it can be useful to participate in hobbies that require physical activity, and they can be especially beneficial if they also involve a social component. While physical activity is an important aspect of physical and mental health, other aspects, such as nutrition and sleep, are also essential for overall health and wellbeing.