Exercising for 20 minutes a day cuts the risk of developing depression by one third, and could save the British economy billions, the biggest ever study has shown.
The NHS currently spends £7.5 billion tackling depression each year, including £266 million on antidepressants alone.
But a major new review led by King’s College London, has found that meeting the recommended weekly guideline of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or brisk walking, could have a huge impact on the numbers of depressed people.
The review of 49 cohort studies, involving 266,000 people found those following the guidance were 31 per cent less likely to develop depression over the seven and a half year research period compared to those who did not meet NHS levels.
Co-author Dr Brendon Stubbs, Post-doctoral research physiotherapist, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College, said: “We found that higher levels of physical activity were protective from future depression in children, adults and older adults, across every continent and after taking into account other important factors such as body mass index, smoking and physical health conditions.
“People who met the government recommendations had the greatest decreased risk of developing depression, equating to a reduction of 31 per cent compared to people not meeting government guidelines.
“The key messages is that when it comes to reducing your chances of developing depression, some physical activity is better than none and the more you do the better your chances are from preventing depression developing. “
Around one in 4 people in Britain will experience a mental health problem each year and 3.3 in 100 (2.14 million) are suffering from depression at any given time.