Study Shows Exercise Prevents Depression in Older Women

It's common knowledge that exercise is a natural treatment for depression, but physical activity may actually prevent depression, too. A study of older women showed that those who exercised regularly were far less likely to have depressive symptoms than their more sedentary peers.

More Exercise More Benefits

The study, published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, discovered that the government's guideline of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is enough to ward off depression. Women who got more exercise than the recommended amount were even less likely to show signs of depression.

The study's authors said, "Given the high prevalence of depression in the United States, particularly for women, exercise is still not considered a first-line treatment option, even though exercise can be of low cost and low risk, can be sustained indefinitely, and has additional benefits for multiple aspects of physical health and physical function. Our findings suggest that motivating midlife women to maintain at least some level of moderate-intensity physical activity may be protective against depressive symptoms, with some activity better than inactivity."

Women at Highest Risk

Depression strikes women twice as often as men, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. One in eight women grapples with depression at some point in her lifetime. Typical symptoms include sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, low energy, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, over- or under-eating, and trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Suicidal thoughts may also occur.

Typical treatments currently include antidepressant medication, counseling, or a mix of the two. There are some natural treatments, like an herb called St. John's Wort, but it's usually only minimally effective and can interact with other medications and medical conditions.

Exercise is free, simple, and safe, as long as your physical condition allows it. Studies have already shown that it helps with current depression; its potential as a preventative, along with its general health benefits, make it a worthwhile addition to any daily routine.