Research published in Preventive Medicine suggests there is a link between a lack of physical activity and developing depression.
The study used a technique known as a meta-analysis to statistically summarize the results of three longitudinal studies, which included 1,142,699 individuals. Among both men and women, having poor cardiorespiratory fitness was linked to a higher risk of developing depression.
In particular, low cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with a 75% increased risk of depression, while medium cardiorespiratory fitness levels were associated with an increased risk of about 23%.
PsyPost interviewed Felipe B. Schuch of Centro Universitário La Salle in Brazil. Read his responses below:
PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?
Schuch: Exercise has demonstrated effects on tackling depressive symptoms in people with depression. The idea here was to evaluate whether an objective measure of physical fitness would be associated with depression in the future. Clearly, fitness can be improved by physical activity practice, therefore increasing physical activity should be targeted as a strategy to prevent depression.
What should the average person take away from your study?
Increases in cardiorespiratory fitness should be targeted to decrease the risk of depression in the future.
Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?\
The major limitations of our review are that we have included only three studies that meet our eligibility criteria. The studies were conducted in developed countries, so the strength of the association may be modified in non-developed countries, where other social aspects may influence the results. Also, the three studies used indirect measures of aerobic capacity that are not considered the most accurate measure.
In addition to Schuch, the study “Are lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness associated with incident depression? A systematic review of prospective cohort studies” was co-authored by Davy Vancampfort, Xuemei Sui, Simon Rosenbaum, Joseph Firth, Justin Richards, Philip B. Ward, and Brendon Stubbs.