Researchers say preventing depression is possible with only one hour of exercise a week. And yes, a leisurely walk around your neighbor counts!

Recent research findings provide significant evidence that exercising one hour per week can help prevent depression. Medical professionals have known for some time that exercise can help treat depression, but this study is the first to show how physical activity can help prevent it from occurring. This is important because depression is one of the most common mood disorders in the United States, affecting more than 16 million adults, and occurring more commonly in women.

Study Highlights

Researchers from Norway followed 33,908 people over 11 years and measured their exercise habits. Results of this study were published last year in the American Journal of Psychiatry and they reported that participants with no symptoms of mental disorders or physical conditions, who exercised an hour or more per week, were significantly less likely to experience depression. Participants who did not exercise at all had a 44% increased chance of developing depression. Additionally, the authors said that even “regular, leisure-time exercise of any intensity provides protection against future depression.” This is great news for people who have not exercised in a long time and are concerned about getting started.

Ready to Start?

According to the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services, if it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised, “start low and go slow” to reduce the risk of injury. They offer these additional key guidelines for safe physical activity:

  • Understand the risks, but know physical activity can be safe for almost everyone.
  • Choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level.
  • Start with a low intensity activity for a shorter period of time, gradually increasing how often and how long activities are done.
  • Consult first with a health care provider, especially if you have chronic conditions or symptoms.

More About Depression

Depression isn’t just about being sad. It is a medical condition that affects how you think, feel, handle daily activities, and enjoy your life. It is not a character flaw, a sign of personal weakness, or something you can just ”snap out of.” In fact, most people with depression need treatment to get better. Balance Women’s Health providers can help diagnose depression and help decide what treatments are right for you – including exercise! Call (405) 378-2727 for an appointment.


Harvey, SB., Øverland, S., Hatch, SL., Wessely, S., Mykletun, A., & Hotopf, M. (2017). Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(1), pp.-28-36. Retrieved from: