Exercise is linked to a number of physical and mental health benefits

People who regularly participate in low to moderate intensity physical activity are less at risk of developing depression, academics have said.

Scientists from Anglia Ruskin University have suggested that exercise is an effective mental health intervention after finding it can reduce rates of depression by 23% and anxiety by 26%.

In addition, exercise was found to combat the development of severe mental health disorders, such as psychosis and schizophrenia.

Individuals who regularly walk, play golf or spend time gardening are less at risk of developing depression, the study has reported.

According to the research, participating in high intensity exercise does not reduce depression rates as much as low to moderate intensity physical activity.

First author Lee Smith said: “Preventing mental health complications effectively has emerged as a major complication, and an area of paramount importance in the realm of public health.

“These conditions can be complex and necessitate a multi-pronged approach to treatment, which may encompass pharmacological interventions, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.

“These effects of physical activity intensity on depression highlight the need for precise exercise guidelines.

“Moderate exercise can improve mental health through biochemical reactions, whereas high-intensity exercise may worsen stress-related responses in some individuals.

“Acknowledging differences in people’s response to exercise is vital for effective mental health strategies, suggesting any activity recommendations should be tailored for the individual.

“The fact that even low to moderate levels of physical activity can be beneficial for mental health is particularly important, given that these levels of activity may be more achievable for people who can make smaller lifestyle changes without feeling they need to commit to a high-intensity exercise programme.”

Read the full study in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews.

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