Regular exercise has undeniable benefits, though some are less obvious than others. In addition to the physical perks of exercising, you can improve your mental health too.
A new study in Norway discovered that exercise can prevent symptoms of depression, though only when it is performed during leisure time. People who engage in physical activity at work, such as construction workers or other jobs that include heavy lifting, are no less likely to become depressed. In order to fight depression, exercise has to be a separate free-time activity.
You may think that walking up the hill to class is exercise, and will in turn improve your mental health. The study shows, however, that there is no significant mental benefit to this kind of activity. More beneficial would be a yoga class, a game of football, or a run around campus.
The study also found that any level of activity can prevent symptoms of depression. More than 40,000 Norwegians were questioned about their physical activity and any symptoms of depression. Researchers found that the more time people spent doing physical activity, the less likely they were to become depressed. Interestingly, the intensity of the exercise did not seem to make a difference. It did not matter if the participant broke into a sweat or got their heart rate above a certain number; any exercise had the fighting change against depression.
Researchers also found that exercise is more effective in improving mental health when it is done with a friend or two. This may explain why physical activity at work does not have the same benefits as physical activity during free time.
So to avoid symptoms of depression, especially during the cold winter months when people are most vulnerable, start an exercise routine with a friend. Taking just half an hour three times a week to work out can have huge mental health benefits for you and your friend.