Adding an extra 35 minutes to your workout could slash your risk of depression, research suggests.
Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital found exercising for an “extra” half-an-hour or so a day protects against the mental-health condition.
Whether sprinting or yoga, the results suggest exercise may “neutralise” DNA that puts people at risk.
“Our findings strongly suggest, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and being physically active has the potential to neutralise the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable,” lead author Dr Karmel Choi said.
“On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes.”
Nearly one in five (19.7%) people over 16 in the UK showed signs of depression or anxiety in 2014 alone, Mental Health Foundation statistics show.
In the US, 17.3 million adults (7.1%) had at least one depressive episode in 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“The magnitude of depression around the world underscores the need for effective strategies that can impact as many people as possible,” Dr Choi said.
The NHS recommends mild sufferers do more exercise.
It advises adults aged 19-to-64 do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise – like brisk walking – a week or 75 minutes of vigorous working out, such as jogging.
As well as boosting our mood, exercise also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50%, NHS data shows.
Government data suggests two in five (41%) adults aged between 40 and 60 in England did not walk more than 10 minutes at a time in 2017.
To learn more about the benefits of exercise, the scientists analysed the genes of more than 7,900 people.
Over two years, they scoured the participants’ health records for any signs of depression.
This information was combined to give the participants a depression-risk score.
Finally, they were quizzed on how active they were in any given week.
Results – published in the journal Depression & Anxiety – found daily exercise drove down the risk of depression, even if a person’s genetic risk was high.
For every additional four hours of activity a week, the risk of a depressive episode in those who had suffered before dropped by 17%.
The benefits applied to all forms of exercise, whether high-intensity or more gentle stretches.
Exercise is known to release “feel good” chemicals called endorphins that help boost our mood and combat stress.
While most would benefit from being more active, the scientists hope their study will particularly encourage doctors to prescribe exercise to those at risk of depression.
“In general, our field has been lacking actionable ways of preventing depression and other mental health conditions,” study author Dr Jordan Smoller said.
“I think this research shows the value of real-world healthcare data and genomics to provide answers that can help us to reduce the burden of these diseases.”