Exercise Prevents Depression

A study of 34,000 healthy adults followed for 11 years shows that exercise prevents depression. The authors of the study found that the dose of exercise needed to optimally prevent depression was surprisingly low. Just 15 – 20 minutes of aerobic exercise per day was effective.

The study is the largest prospective study to date to show the benefits of exercise, and also the first study to carefully examine the amount of exercise needed in order to see a benefit.

Other studies have suggested that the effect of exercise may be linked to a reduction in stress induced inflammation..

This study adds to the large literature showing that exercise helps to treat, or reduce, existing depression.

If you are having trouble translating this evidence into action, here is a simple suggestion, buy yourself a pedometer, or install an app on your smartphone to measure the number of steps you walk.

A study of postmenopausal women showed that getting a pedometer and being instructed to increase by 500 steps a week the amount you walked was associated with a significant reduction in depression.

For More Information

Aerobic Exercise Stimulates Neuron Growth

Exercise and Stress: How Exercise Prevents Depression


Harvey SB, Øverland S, Hatch SL, Wessely S, Mykletun A, Hotopf M. Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study. Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Oct 3:appiajp201716111223. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28969440.

Cooney GM, Dwan K, Greig CA, et al: Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (9):CD004366

Rosenbaum S, Tiedemann A, Sherrington C, et al: Physical activity interventions for people with mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry 2014; 75:964–974