Research into the role of cardio exercise found that a higher level of fitness was linked to lower risk of depression
When the wintry winds of November smash rain and cold into your face, working up the resolve to pull on your sports gear and expose yourself to the elements can easily lose when the other option is a hygge-inspired binge of a boxset. But according to a new meta-analysis of more than one million people, going for a run can help protect a person from depression.
According to the studies, having a low level of cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with a 75% higher risk of depression, while even having only medium levels of cardio fitness lowers that risk to just 23%.
Published in the journal of Preventative Medicine, a research team examined the data gathered by two American studies and a third, hailing from Sweden. With a combined total of 1,128,290 respondents, only 2% of which were female, the research examined how well the volunteers’ fitness ranked while running on a treadmill, cycling on an exercise bike, or climbing several flights of stairs.
“The idea here was to evaluate whether an objective measure of physical fitness would be associated with depression in the future,” said the research team’s leader Felipe B Schuch of Brazil’s Centro Universitário La Salle. “Clearly, fitness can be improved by physical activity, therefore increasing physical activity should be targeted as a strategy to prevent depression.”
The results of this meta-analysis only strengthens the association between physical and mental health going hand in hand; a study from March 2016 claimed that when people suffering from depression were encouraged to take up a running-and-meditation programme, their symptoms improved by an average 40%, while another piece of research from 2006 found that university students who regularly exercised were less likely to be substance dependent.
While all of the studies conclude that physical activity can help with dealing with depression, the realities of coping with the mental health issue can mean that physical exertion is next to impossible. Writing about her depression on the Newstalk website, mental health blogger Fiona Kennedy explains how medication slowed her down physically.
“How am I supposed to get up and exercise first thing in the morning when I can barely think clearly enough to find the cereal?” Fiona writes. “How am I supposed to maintain a healthy diet when my system is craving the last thing I actually need? And how on earth am I supposed to sustain the motivation for either when despite my best efforts at both, my weight continues to increase?”
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact Samaritans free any time from any phone on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.ie to find details of your nearest branch. You can also find online information at www.yourmentalhealth.ie