Physical activity is being increasingly recognized as an effective tool to treat depression. In a review article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers have taken the connection one step further, finding that moderate exercise can actually prevent episodes of depression in the long term. This is the first longitudinal review to focus exclusively on the role that exercise plays in maintaining good mental health and preventing the onset of depression later in life. The authors analyzed over 26 years’ worth of research findings to discover that even low levels of physical activity (walking and gardening for 20–30 minutes a day) can ward off depression in people of all age groups. These findings come at a time when mental health experts want to expand their approach beyond treating depression with prescription medication. The authors of the review article acknowledge that other factors influence a person’s likelihood of experiencing depression, including their genetic makeup. However, the scope of research they assessed demonstrates that regardless of individual predispositions, there’s a clear take- away for everyone. “It’s definitely worth taking note that if you’re currently active, you should sustain it.” say the authors. “If you’re not physically active, you should initiate the habit. This review shows promising evidence that the impact of being active goes far beyond the physical.” Sources: Materials provided by University of Toronto. Article citation: Mammen G, Faulkner G. Physical activity and the prevention of depression: systematic review of prospective studies. Am J Prevent Med. 2013;45(5):649–657

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