Physical activity in the form of exercise can boost mental health. Numerous studies have found that regular exercise can both reduce the risk of developing depression and reduce the severity of depressive symptoms. Even a small amount can go a long way.
Regular exercise can help depression
“Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for both your mental and physical health,” says Adam Fry, PhD, a performance science specialist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Just one hour of exercise per week can significantly reduce the risk of depression and depressive symptoms.”
For example, a 2019 study found that those with a genetic predisposition to depression who exercised were less likely to develop depression than those who did no exercise at all. In fact, the study found that just 15 minutes of running or an hour of walking each day – in place of sitting – helped protect against depressive symptoms.
Exercise also has been found to stimulate the release of endorphins, a neurotransmitter in the brain that provides pain relief, enhances feelings of pleasure and well-being, and can help lower stress levels.
According to a 2017 study in the journal Brain Plasticity, exercise can increase dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. Exercise also increases Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports brain structure and function.
The best exercise for depression
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
If you’re struggling with depression or high-stress levels, it can be difficult to stick to this, and Fry says that any amount of exercise will still have benefits.
Moreover, there are plenty of activities that qualify as moderate or vigorous exercise, per the CDC.
For examples of resistance exercises that may qualify, click here.
It can be important to get a combination of these different types of exercise, in order to keep yourself interested and motivated.
“Both aerobic exercise and strength training can be helpful,” says Fry. “Physical activity recommendations promote both forms of exercise, and the variety can keep things from becoming monotonous.”
In addition, researchers have found mental health benefits for both types of exercises.
Overall, there really isn’t one certain type of exercise that is most effective at relieving depressive symptoms and reducing stress, however many attest to the benefits of resistance(strength training) exercises.
“I think people often get too hung up on the perfect exercise program. People are busy. Exercise programs are hard to stick to,” says Fry. “My message to people is: the best kind of exercise is the exercise you will actually do. Find the type of exercise you enjoy and do that.”
Some of this content was published here.