Depression can be, well, depressing. When that bleak mood comes over you, it can make you want to hole up under the covers or in a dark room and not engage at all with the outside world.
Paradoxically, though, studies have shown that people who suffer from depression can overcome this all-too-common mental health issue by getting up and getting active with consistent exercise. You don’t necessarily need to go out and chat up your fellow exercisers—but you do need to throw off the duvet and start sweating it out the hard way.
That’s because just one hour of exercise each week can be a helpful strategy against depression, according to a new, large meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Researchers looked at data on almost 34,000 Norwegian adults from the Health Study of Nord-Trøndelag County, which was done between 1984 and 1997, and found that a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every seven days could prevent 12% of depression diagnoses.
An hour a week. You can do that, right? Right.
“These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise—from one hour per week—can deliver significant protection against depression,” said study lead author Samuel Harvey, Ph.D., an associate professor from the University of South Wales in Australia. “These results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns. If we can find ways to increase the population’s level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits.”