Study: Exercise Should Be First Treatment for Depression

Story at-a-glance

  • An overview of 97 systematic reviews and meta-analyses found exercise is 1.5 times more effective for mental health than top medications or counseling, and benefits were seen in 12 weeks
  • The authors of the umbrella review call on mental health professionals and doctors to start prescribing exercise as a first line of treatment
  • Another systematic review, which analyzed the association between physical activity and the risk of depression, found there’s a dose-dependent response. Compared to those who did not exercise, people who got half the recommended volume of physical activity lowered their risk for depression by 18%. Those who got the recommended amount lowered their risk by 25%
  • Most health authorities recommend getting 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week
  • Previous research has also found that people who met or exceeded the weekly exercise recommendation lowered their risk of death. Men can lower their risk of cardiovascular disease death by as much as 34% and their all-cause mortality by up to 36%; women can lower their CVD death risk by as much as 44% and their all-cause mortality by as much as 55%

Published by markskidmore

Mark Skidmore is Professor of Economics at Michigan State University where he holds the Morris Chair in State and Local Government Finance and Policy. His research focuses on topics in public finance, regional economics, and the economics of natural disasters. Mark created the Lighthouse Economics website and blog to share economic research and information relevant for navigating tumultuous times.

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