On February 23 we celebrate the National Day for Combating Depression. Scientific studies confirm that about 20 minutes of brisk walking a day can reduce the risk of this disease by 22%. Meanwhile, one in five inhabitants of Poland admit that they do not walk even for 10 minutes a week.
Physical activity and depression
– Due to the growing scale of the problem, scientists are looking at the causes of depression more and more deeply. In addition to prolonged stress, genetic or hormonal conditions, the attention of doctors is largely caught by physical activity. Studies indicate that around half of patients struggling with depression do not meet WHO core recommendations regarding the levels of physical activity – says Mateusz Banaszkiewicz, health psychologist. A review of 13 studies carried out in 10 countries published by Schuch and his co-workers in 2016 showed that supplementing pharmacological treatment with physical activity significantly favoured the effectiveness of treatment.
WHO recommendations for an adult person include 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense physical activity per week. According to the MultiSport Index 2019 survey, only one third of physically active Poles can meet these standards, which is approximately 7 million people over the age of 15. Meanwhile, physical activity can be significant in the context of preventing depression. A research analysis conducted under the leadership of Dr Felipe Schuch, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in April 2018, shows that for people who are physically active for at least 150 minutes a week the risk of depression drops by 22%. In other words, 20 minutes of daily, intensive walking can bring positive effects in this respect.
– Despite the growing awareness of the importance of physical activity for our health and wellbeing, still 36% of Poles do not engage in any physical activity even once a month. The latest MultiSport Index 2019 survey showed that one in five adult residents of Poland do not walk even for 10 minutes a week. On the other hand, almost half of us spend more than five hours each day sitting – emphasises Dr Adam Waszkowski, Director of the Analysis Department at Benefit Systems, the creator of the MultiSport Programme.
Movement for teenagers' mental health
The problem of a sedentary lifestyle does not only apply to adults. The latest WHO data shows that in Poland nearly 80% of children also do not engage in physical activity for the recommended 60 minutes a day. – British scientists have recently checked the impact of insufficient physical activity on the mental wellbeing of young people. It turned out that children between 12 and 16 years of age who continuously led a sedentary lifestyle experienced symptom of depression, such as a decrease in mood, loss of interest, problems with concentration at the age of 18 by 28% stronger. Meanwhile, each additional hour of physical activity for children reduces the risk of depression in adulthood by 9-11%– adds Mateusz Banaszkiewicz.
Sport for improved wellbeing
Regular and suitable physical activity stimulates the secretion of happiness hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. Exercises also help reduce anxiety and stress. This is one of the reasons why doctors recommend physical activity as a complementary form of depression treatment and prevention more and more often.