Just 30 minutes of exercise per day can help beat depression - even in people with a family history of the condition, research suggests.
Karmel Choi, from the Harvard school of public health in the USA, and lead author of the study, said: "Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralise the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable".
Adding four hours of exercise a week could lower the risk of a new episode of depression by 17%, according to the study published November 5 in the journal Depression and Anxiety. The study was published on Tuesday in the journal Depression and Anxiety. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), depression can run in families suggesting that genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing the disease.
In the new study, the researchers analysed information from almost 8,000 participants in the Partners HealthCare Biobank, a database to help researchers better understand how people's genes, environment and lifestyle affect their health.
The study examined data for 7,968 people, including 628 people who had been diagnosed with depression during a two-year period. They also calculated genetic risk scores for each participant, combining information across the entire genome into a single score that reflected a person's inherited risk for depression. Higher levels of physical activity helped protect even those with the highest genetic risk for depression, the investigators found.
Both high-intensity exercise (such as aerobics, dance and exercise machines) and lower-intensity activities (such as yoga and stretching) were associated with a reduced risk of depression, the findings showed.
Depression represents the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Senior author Jordan Smoller added, "In general our field has been lacking actionable ways of preventing depression and other mental health conditions". She is a clinical fellow in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. "The magnitude of depression around the world underscores the need for effective strategies that can impact as many people as possible".