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Physical activity shown to hold back depression

A major research project has linked sedentary lifestyles with symptoms of depression.

The findings from this longitudinal study involving 8,950 middle-aged Australian women were published in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Lead author Dr Jannique van Uffelen from Victoria University’s Institute of Sport, Exercise & Active Living said both high sitting-time and low physical activity levels were associated with higher risk of current depressive symptoms, and in combination, the risk increased further.

“Women who sat more than seven hours a day and did no physical activity were three times more likely to have depressive symptoms than women who sat less than four hours a day and met physical activity guidelines of two-and-a-half hours of moderate intensity activity per week,” she said.

Dr van Uffelen said women who spent many hours sitting but also managed high levels of exercise did not show an increased risk of future depressive symptoms.

However, the study also showed that women with depressive symptoms were 20% less likely to increase their physical activity levels over time.

“This suggests a vicious circle whereby inactive women are more likely to develop depressive symptoms and those with depressive symptoms are less likely to increase their activity levels,” she said.

Dr van Uffelen said the study reinforced the benefit of keeping active to alleviate depressive symptoms or to prevent developing them.

For adults to remain healthy it’s recommended they do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most, but preferable all, days of the week and to add some regular, vigorous activity for extra health and fitness.


Available for interview:

Dr Jannique van Uffelen, Senior Research Fellow

Institute of Sport, Exercise & Active Living, Victoria University

(03) 9919 4259; [email protected]


Media contact:

Michael Quin, Research writer

Public Affairs Department, Victoria University

(03) 9919 9491; 0431 815 409; [email protected]

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