Morning Report

Exercise for Depression: A Small Dose Goes a Long Way

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH


October 20, 2017

Hello. I'm Dr Arefa Cassoobhoy, a practicing internist, Medscape advisor, and senior medical director for WebMD. Welcome to Morning Report, our 1-minute news story for primary care.

Exercise and Depression

In a new study,[1] investigators wondered whether exercise can prevent new-onset depression or anxiety.

To find out, a cohort of about 33,000 people with no mental health conditions were followed for an average of 11 years. Those who reported no exercise at baseline had 44% higher odds of developing depression compared with those who were exercising 1-2 hours a week.

The researchers concluded that if everyone exercised at least 1 hour a week, 12% of the cases of depression that occurred could have been prevented.

Unfortunately, the level of exercise had no effect on anxiety, and there was no benefit beyond 1 hour of exercise each week.

These findings are supported by another recent study[2] of more than 600 patients with mild to moderate depression. After 12 weeks, exercise of any intensity was linked with lower severity of depression, and the benefits were sustained at 1 year.

So if you're concerned about depression with a patient, consider also prescribing exercise. They don't have to run a marathon. Even small amounts will help.

Follow Dr Cassoobhoy on Twitter at @ArefaMD


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