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“Getting sweaty in your spare time means you’ll be twice as likely to stave off depression than someone who doesn’t,” the Daily Mirror has reported. However, the newspaper says that the link only exists when people get active for their own leisure, but not when doing a physically demanding job.

The news is based on a large study of Norwegian citizens, which found that higher levels of leisure-time activity (intense or light) were associated with reduced likelihood of depression, although work-based activity was not. There are some shortcomings to the research, which the researchers themselves discuss. But importantly, this study cannot prove the direction of the link, i.e. whether exercising more leads to less depressive symptoms or the equally plausible case that people who are more depressed are less likely to exercise.

The researchers also found that levels of social support and social engagements may partially explain this link, and should be researched as it may be a distinguishing feature between workplace and leisure activity. Overall, these results should be interpreted in terms of what is already known about exercise and mental health, and not in isolation.

Extracted from: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/11November/Pages/exercise-linked-to-lower-depression.aspx

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