The advice is so basic, sometimes it's infuriating: Move your body and you'll feel better, even if your brain is working against you. But if you deal with depression, a new study offers some hope of alleviation, and it doesn't require becoming a gym rat when you feel your worst.
Australia's Black Dog Institute focuses on mental health issues at the workplace. It recently released research that shows how little exercise each week can have a significant preventive effect against mood imbalances and intrusive thoughts. Scientists analyzed more than a decade's worth of data from a Norwegian health study looking at the number and intensity of workouts per week, how long those workouts lasted, and how participants described their mood overall. Those who exercised, even for just an hour or two each week, were 41 percent less likely to develop depression.
"Most of the mental health benefits of exercise are realized within the first hour undertaken each week," lead author Paul Harvey of the University of New South Wales said in a press release. "With sedentary lifestyles becoming the norm worldwide, and rates of depression growing, these results are particularly pertinent as they highlight that even small lifestyle changes can reap significant mental health benefits."
Whether this means 10 minutes a day or a weekly hour-long activity, something is usually better than nothing. That said, this isn't necessarily possible right now for all who live with depression (see "Depression-Busting Exercise Tips for People Too Depressed To Exercise" by Sarah Kurchak). Work with a mental health professional to manage what you can. But even if your brain lies to you about your self-worth, remember: Your body isn't always working against you. It can help you too.