Just one hour of exercise a week can help prevent depression, research shows

We’ve all heard the saying that being active make’s you happy, however did you know that taking part in just ONE hour of exercise a week can actually prevent future depression?

Well, now you do! According to a landmark study released today by the Black Dog Institute, even the smallest amounts of exercise can protect against depression.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, focused on 33,908 Norwegian adults who had their levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety monitored over 11 years.


It found that 12% of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants undertook just one hour of physical activity each week.

“We’ve known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey, from Black Dog Institute and UNSW said.

“These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise, from one hour per week, can deliver significant protection against depression.

“We are still trying to determine exactly why exercise can have this protective effect, but we believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity.”

According to the Australian Health Survey, 20% of Australian adults do not undertake any regular physical activity, and more than a third spend less than 1.5 hours per week being physically active.

“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,” Associate Professor Harvey said.

The study involved researchers from Black Dog Institute, King’s College London, UNSW Sydney, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, University of Bergen (Norway), Nordland Hospital Trust (Norway) and the Arctic University of Norway.