Exercise can help treat depression. Can it help prevent it?

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. It wreaks havoc on mental health. It negatively impacts physical health.


Exercise is important for those suffering from depression. Endorphins released from exercise can enhance well being. Physical activity can increase social interactions. Seeing a friendly face or exchanging a smile can lower anxiety and boost mood.


But can physical activity prevent the development of depression?


This systematic review and meta-analysis tried to address this question.


Researchers looked at 111 prospective studies. These studies included more than 3 million adults from all over the world. None of these adults had depression at baseline. The studies followed the subjects over time. They assessed physical activity as well as symptoms related to depression.


After examining the data from these studies, the researchers had two main conclusions.


1. Physical activity was inversely associated with developing depression.

2. The more vigorous the exercise, the lower the likelihood of developing depression.


We need to remember these findings are from observational data. However, they do support the hypothesis that exercise can help prevent depression.