Exercise has been touted as a natural treatment option for depression lately. But many people with depression know that the relationship between physical activity and mood is complicated.
Exercise can alleviate some depressive symptoms, maybe even prevent symptoms from getting worse in some cases. But other times exercise may not have any effect on depression. And sometimes a person with depression can't even manage to get out of bed during severe episodes, let alone exercise.
A new study draws attention to the fact that exercise may help improve the moods of some teens with and without depression. However, it’s unlikely that exercise is preventing depression from starting in the first place.
The study followed 736 teenagers for three years.
Physical activity was noted over three years using the following measurements: moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) during weekdays and weekends.
Both a questionnaire and interview were given at the start and end of the study to determine depressive symptoms.
However, researchers found that there was no long-term association between physical activity and later development of depressive symptoms.
“These results do not support the hypothesis that [physical activity] protects against developing depressive symptoms in adolescence,” according to the study.
The study may be limited due to a smaller participant group, as well as using teens as part of the general population (it’s unclear how many teens actually were diagnosed with depression at the start and end of the study).
Results also depend on the accuracy of self-reporting by teens.
Robin Pedowitz, a medical director at Cigna Corp. and a board certified adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist, said in an email that this study can add to our understanding of how to treat and prevent depression in teens.
Although nothing can truly prevent depression, it can certainly be managed.