Stopping exercise can increase risk of depression, study finds

Lack of exercise can have a very detrimental effect on one’s mental health

Sabrina Barr
Friday 23 March 2018 14:35 GMT
(Getty Images/Vetta
(Getty Images/Vetta (Getty Images/Vetta)

It’s long been understood that exercise is extremely beneficial for both one’s physical and mental health.

However, the question of how a person’s mental state is affected when they give up exercise altogether is a topic that hasn’t been adequately explored.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide, ceasing all forms of vigorous physical activity can cause an individual to develop depressive symptoms.

Julie Morgan, a PhD student from the Discipline of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, decided to investigate how a significant lack of exercise can affect active adults by analysing results from previous studies.

152 adults were assessed, 50 of which were women.

Each of the participants had previously exercised at least three times a week for a minimum of three months, with each bout of exercise lasting for at least 30 minutes.

The impact of ceasing exercise on the individuals’ mental health was almost immediate for some.

“In some cases, ceasing this amount of exercise induced significant increases in depressive symptoms after just three days,” said Professor Bernhard Baune, head of psychiatry at the University of Adelaide and senior author of the study.

“Other studies showed that people’s depressive symptoms increased after the first one or two weeks, which is still quite soon after stopping exercise.”

As Morgan has highlighted, there isn’t currently a substantial amount of research concerning the correlation between lack of exercise and depressive symptoms.

“Adequate physical activity and exercise are important for both physical and mental health,” she said.

“An extensive body of clinical evidence shows that regular exercise can reduce and treat depression.

“However, there is limited research into what happens with depressive symptoms when exercise is stopped.”

The study discovered that the female participants were more likely than the men to exhibit depressive symptoms.

The researchers have pointed out that further research into the subject is necessary in order to provide more accurate results, as their sample of participants was fairly small.

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