Can Exercise Prevent Depression?

For adults, ages 23 to 50 years old, consistent physical activity was associated with fewer symptoms of depression, according to a recent study.

“Findings suggest that activity may alleviate depressive symptoms in the general population and, in turn, depressive symptoms in early adulthood may be a barrier to activity,” said the study’s authors.

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For the study, researchers evaluated data from 11,000 participants included in a British birth cohort (from 1958) that followed participants to age 50.  The research data had information on the participants’ physical activity frequency and depressive symptoms for ages 23, 33, 42, or 50 years.

The study showed that depressive symptoms were decreased by 0.06 at age 50 years; this suggested that the frequency of activity predicted a lower number of symptoms.

For those who were initially inactive but increased their physical activity from 0 to 3 times per week, they reduced their risk of depression by 19% after a 5-year period.

Researchers found that participants with higher levels of depressive symptoms were less active by 0.27 times every week.

The complete study is published in the October issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

-Michelle Canales


Pereira SMP, Geoffroy MC, Power C. Depressive symptoms and physical activity during 3 decades in adult life. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014 October [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1240.

JAMA Network. Fewer depressive symptoms associated with more frequent activity in adults at most ages. October 15, 2014.  Accessed October 16, 2014.