It’s hard enough for many depressed people to get out of bed every morning, so just how much exercise is needed to prevent depression then?
When you’re suffering from depression, the last thing you want to think about is spending an hour on a cardio machine. Even 30 minutes can be daunting.
That’s why it’s so important to prevent clinical depression in the first place. Situational depression may arise from unforeseen circumstances. But clinical depression is a whole new monster.
A new study (American Journal of Psychiatry, Harvey et al) says that small amounts of exercise can be effective at preventing depression, even if you’re older.
Study Was the Largest of Its Kind
• 33,908 adults with depression were involved.
• They were followed for over 11 years.
• 12 percent of the depression cases could have been prevented with just one hour of exercise—PER WEEK. Yes, that’s how much you can exercise to help prevent depression.
But wait a minute here…
Are you thinking, “I already get at least one hour a week of exercise by cleaning the house!”?
This doesn’t count, if for no other reason, housework tends to be stressful. Have you ever seen someone looking joyful cleaning a dirty kitchen?
Then again, who looks joyful running on a treadmill? But alas, for that matter, who looks bedraggled and mentally stressed while using a treadmill?
Housework is often done under the duress of time constraints, having to please guests or while feeling angry because someone else should have cleaned up the mess.
Clearly you can see how housework is not effective at fighting or preventing depression. In fact, housework often contributes to it!
Samuel Harvey, lead study author, says in the report that the findings “show that even relatively small amounts of exercise — from one hour per week — can deliver significant protection against depression.”
The study adjusted for variables such as body mass index, income, new-onset physical ailments and perceived social support.
Study participants who reported zero exercise adherence, at the start of the study, had a 44 percent greater chance of developing depression compared to subjects who reported exercising one to two hours a week.
What Is One Hour of Exercise?
To avoid the mistake of believing you’re already incorporating “exercise” into your normal daily movements, you must set time aside specifically for exercise and not for anything else.
That means the walking you do at the mall is not your exercise because the purpose of it is to shop.
Instead, if you want to walk for exercise, set time aside strictly for walking.
This way you can focus on pumping your arms and breathing properly and won’t get distracted and tempted to pause.
The one hour can be segmented. But the more segmented it is, the harder it will be to keep track of just how many minutes you’ve been accumulating.
As a former personal trainer I recommend two 30 minute sessions, or four 15 minute sessions, per week, as far as easily keeping track.
The AJP study did not investigate intensity of exercise. However, to get the most out of your pre-planned exercise sessions, I recommend interval training for cardio sessions, and strength training like the deadlift (below), squat and overhead press for resistance sessions.
If you prefer doing one 60 minute yoga class a week, that’ll also work. Ideally, though, this would be an addition to the cardio and strength training.
There’s no guarantee that exercise will prevent clinical depression in every single person who works out. But for many, it’s all it takes to prevent sinking into the bleakest abyss imaginable.