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Can Exercise Prevent Depression? Here’s What the Science Says

sk anyone who’s ever felt better after a workout, and they’ll tell you that exercise and psychological state are related. Science backs up that gut feeling. Many studies have found that physical activity is linked to a lower risk of developing depression, and better outcomes for people that have it.

But does exercise actually prevent depression, or are people that don’t have depression simply more likely to be active?

A new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, sheds some light thereon question. Using genetic data from quite 600,000 adults enrolled in multiple genomic association studies, researchers found “more evidence than ever before that physical activity does play a crucial , and certain causal, role in reducing risk for depression,” says Karmel Choi, a clinical and research fellow in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital and a co-author of the study.

The researchers checked out one or more of several different measures: people’s genomes, their medical histories of depression and depressive symptoms and the way much physical activity they got (as measured by wearable fitness trackers and self reports). Comparing this information, they identified several gene variants linked to a person’s likelihood to exercise, et al. related to a person’s likelihood of developing depression.

People who had genetic markers linked to a greater likelihood of exercising were less likely to develop depression, but people with markers of depression weren’t less likely to exercise. This finding, they say, suggests that exercise can protect against depression, but depression doesn’t inherently make someone less likely to exercise.

“Physical activity is sweet for tons of things,” says co-author Dr. Jordan Smoller, director of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It may have benefits not just for all types of aspects of your health, but also, it’s like, your risk of developing depression.”

The new research is merely the newest study to mention that exercise may prevent depression. Here’s what else the science says about how exercise affects psychological state .

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