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No Sweat: Small Doses of Exercise May Ward Off Depression

Anyone who has experienced the euphoric “runner’s high” that follows a satisfying workout will likely attest to a connection between physical activity and mental health.

Studies have long borne this theory out: Endorphins, the opiate-like chemicals that flood the brain after intense or sustained exercise, appear to act as a buffer against depressive thoughts and feelings.

In the study, which was published Oct. 3 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers looked at data from the Health Study of Nord-Trøndelag County (aka the HUNT study), one of most extensive population-based health surveys ever conducted. Specifically, they tracked the levels of exercise and symptoms of depression in nearly 34,000 Norwegian adults between January 1984 and June 1997.

In fact, just 1 hour of physical activity each week could have prevented 12 percent of depression diagnoses over the course of the study period, the researchers said.

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