Psychology. Why can doing a little sport help you deal with depression?

Psychology. Why can doing a little sport help you deal with depression?
Psychology. Why can doing a little sport help you deal with depression?

Many studies now support the positive impact of physical activity on mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

It was previously thought that high intensity was necessary for significant effects on the brain, but a recent publication indicates that even light to moderate physical activity can be beneficial.

Getting active reduces depression by 23% and anxiety by 26%

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in the UK (Cambridge, Chelmsford) conducted a general review of studies from around the world to examine the potential of physical activity as a mental health intervention.

The analysis, published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, found that physical activity reduced the risk of depression by 23% and anxiety by 26%.

Interestingly, low- and medium-intensity physical activity showed slightly more significant protective effects against depression (-21%), compared to more intense activity (-19%).

Various activities

This included activities such as gardening, golf and walking. The analysis also revealed significant associations between more intense levels of physical activity and the prevention of anxiety disorders (-29% risk).

Similar results in women and men

Lead author Lee Smith, professor of public health, comments: “ These effects of physical activity intensity on depression highlight the need for clear exercise guidelines. Moderate exercise may improve mental health through biochemical reactions, while high-intensity exercise may worsen stress-related responses in some individuals. »

The results were consistent in both men and women, and across different age groups and around the world.

A reassuring observation

For Professor Lee Smith, “ Effectively preventing mental health complications has become a major challenge and requires a multifaceted approach to treatment, which may encompass pharmacological interventions, psychotherapy and lifestyle changes. »

The fact that even low to moderate levels of physical activity can benefit mental health is particularly important and reassuring.

Indeed, some people can make smaller changes to their lifestyle, without feeling obligated to commit to a high-intensity exercise program.

Others, such as chronically ill people, may also not feel capable.

Source: Masoud Rahmati et al. Physical activity and prevention of mental health complications: An umbrella review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews Volume 160, May 2024, 105641

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