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Approximately 322 million people – more than 4 percent of the global population – currently live with depression, the most common mental health condition worldwide. Scientific evidence indicates that roughly one-third to one-half of the risk for developing depression is due to genetic influences. A new study suggests that physical activity may reduce the risk of developing depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

The study was based on genomic data and lifestyle surveys collected from the electronic health records of nearly 8,000 people enrolled in a large healthcare system in the United States. Findings from the study indicated that for every additional four hours of physical activity per week – roughly 35 minutes per day – the risk of having a new episode of depression were reduced by 17 percent. The protective effects of physical activity against depression were observed with both high- and low-intensity activities, including aerobic exercise, dance, yoga, and stretching.

The FMF team put together a video covering the clinical and mechanistic evidence explaining why exercise may help prevent and treat depression. The video also presents evidence from Mendelian randomization studies showing that people who are genetically predisposed to depression are not less likely to engage in physical activity.

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