It doesn’t matter where you live, what your gender is, or how old you are—regularly sliding into a pair of running shoes means your risk for developing depression is lower than if you never exercise.
An international team of researchers from Kings College in London came to that conclusion after taking stock of years of evidence from all over the world. To begin their work, the scientists searched for any past studies having to do with physical activity and depression, which yielded a mountain of results, more than 13,000 papers. After a painstaking, multi-step review process, they boiled the number of applicable studies down to 49, which covered nearly 267,000 people across Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania. Then the researchers began their meta-analysis, a statistical approach to research that involves consider a number of studies, then combining the results to paint a clearer picture of what all the data tell us.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to meta-analyze the relationship between physical activity levels and incident depression,” the researchers wrote in the resulting paper, released today (April 24). “Study findings indicate that across 49 studies, higher physical activity levels are associated with a decreased odds of developing future depression.”