Under the Hood

Combat Depression By Increasing Your Exercise Routine

Researchers in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, analyzed the link between regular exercise and depression by studying the genetics of  7,968 people of European ancestry.

The longitudinal study was based on a cohort of genomic data held by the Partners Healthcare Biobank, which had electronically maintained the health records along with a survey of lifestyle-related choices. 

The team had determined the polygenic risk assessment. Traits influenced by either two or many more different genes can make a person more susceptible to depression sometimes but it can be prevented in time by exercising more, the study found. They also investigated the amount of exercise people who already suffered from depression had committed to on a daily basis. 

In their study, the researchers “examined whether physical activity was prospectively associated with reduced risk for incident depression in the context of genetic vulnerability.”

“Polygenic risk scores were derived based on large‐scale genome‐wide association results for major depression. We tested main effects of physical activity and polygenic risk scores on incident depression, and effects of physical activity within stratified groups of polygenic risk,” the researchers explained in their summary. 

What was the result?

A reduced risk of another depressive episode by 17 percent was noticed in people who already suffered from depression when they added an extra 35 minutes of physical activity to their daily regimen. 

This was applicable to people who were currently doing a minimum of four hours of physical activity weekly. Among the people who were engaged in physical activity limited to 1.1 hours weekly, a higher risk of depression was seen by the researchers. 

High intensity exercise such as aerobic exercise as well as exercising with the help of equipment and low intensity exercise such as yoga and stretching were the exercises practiced by the subjects of the study. 

“We were surprised to see that physical activity protected against new episodes of depression, even for people who had already experienced depression in the past,” Karmel Choi, clinician and research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said.

“Because past depression is a strong predictor of later depression, this gives us even more evidence that physical activity may be a powerful tool for beating the odds against future depression,” Choi added. 

depression Over 300 million people worldwide have depression, the World Health Organization estimates. Photo courtesy of Pixabay