Researchers in Scotland have found that going for a brisk walk could alleviate symptoms of depression.
Depression is quite common and affects about one in ten adults at some point in their lives. It can also strike children, with around 4% of children aged 5-16 affected by the condition in the UK.
Vigorous activity has already been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression, but the effect of less strenuous activity has been less clear.
Researchers at the University of Stirling analysed eight academic studies on a total of 341 patients to find data on the mildest form of exercise: walking.
Writing in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, they found that walking had a ‘large effect’ on depression, similar to other more vigorous forms of exercise.
Treatment for depression involves either medication or talking treatments, or usually a combination of the two. Many people with depression benefit by making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, cutting down on alcohol and eating more healthily.
Walking is easily undertaken by most people, costs nothing or very little, and is easy to incorporate into daily living.
Scientists think that exercise helps by releasing ‘feel good’ hormones, as well as giving a sense of control.
Now, the researchers say that further studies need to be carried out on the subject to find out whether indoor or outdoor walking is better, and for how long and how fast the patient should exercise.
Chief executive of mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, said: "To get the most from outdoor activities it's important to find a type of exercise you love and can stick at. Try different things, be it walking, cycling, gardening or even open-water swimming.
"Exercising with others can have even greater impact, as it provides an opportunity to strengthen social networks, talk through problems with others or simply laugh and enjoy a break from family and work. So ask a friend to join you."
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