While we’re hesitant to say that anything cures depression, there’s no denying the strong link between regular exercise and improved mental health. There are countless studies that suggest that active people are significantly less likely to develop the condition and that it’s an effective treatment for those who have it. However, there’s never been any definitive evidence to confirm exactly how much exercise we need to be doing to reap those mental health benefits — until now.
A new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry has shed some light into the minimum amount of exercise needed to ward off depression and anxiety — and it’s way less than you’d think. In studying 33,908 Norwegian adults for 11 years, the researchers found 12% of depression cases could be prevented completely with only one hour of exercise each week. Yes, you read that correctly — per week.
This is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression. 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.
-study lead author, Samuel Harvey, PhD,
While scientists still aren’t entirely sure why exercise is so effective in preventing depression, the study’s lead author Samuel Harvey has said he believes it’s a combination of the various physical and social benefits of physical activities. So, if you were looking for some motivation to hit the gym or go for a run, you just found it — because nobody is too busy to workout for an hour per week.
Still need more workout motivation? Check out 7 fitness goals that are way more inspiring than getting abs.