Can Walking Relieve Symptoms of Depression?

Pregnancyorg Staff's picture

by Cassandra R. Elias

In the News: Studies Show Walking Could Help Relieve Depression

Walking Relieving DepressionWe've heard that exercise is good for relieving symptoms of depression. A new study suggests that walking could ward away depressive symptoms, too.

According to the BBC, British researchers at the University of Stirling analyzed data from several exercise studies to see what effect, if any, walking had on mild to moderate depression.

Their findings show that walking may be a promising treatment for less severe depressive symptoms. However, they emphasize that more studies are needed to confirm the results and to establish guidelines as to how much, how often and how fast one should walk to experience the best results.

Researchers looked through more than 14,000 journal articles looking for randomized controlled trials. The chosen studies compared walking with no treatment or standard treatment. Notably, studies that included walking with other exercise were not included. The researchers did include indoor and outdoor walking as well as group walking.

The study also excluded people who were also diagnosed with other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, or where their depressive symptoms could be secondary to a diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness.

The researchers point out that once they got the participants down to a relevant group, it only included 341 participants. They noted that there was a significant variety in walking routines as well. A number of participants walked 20 minutes; another group for an hour. Some participants walked a couple of times a week and others walked daily. In addition to this data, a group of participants used treadmills, which can be considered a more solitary activity. R

Researchers concluded that it's really unknown which factors affect symptoms of depression the most.

According to the study’s authors walking has the potential to produce an effect in reducing symptoms of depression comparable to other forms of physical activity. Adrian Taylor, a professor who studies depression, addiction and stress at the University of Exeter told BBC News, "The beauty of walking is that everybody does it."

How any form of exercise helps with depressive symptoms is unclear. Professor Taylor said there were ideas about exercise being a distraction from worries, giving a sense of control and releasing "feel-good" hormones.

The bottom-line is that, assuming you've been cleared for exercise by your physician, you can't go wrong trying this theory out to see if it helps you. What kind of exercise do you get? Do you enjoy walks? Do you agree with the study?

Medical references:
- ScienceDirect (March 13, 2012) Mental Health and Physical Activity. Accessed April 23, 2012.