Reciprocal Relationship Between Depression and Exercise

Summary: Researchers have discovered a reciprocal relationship between depression and physical activity in adults. The results reveal that current symptoms of depression can deter physical activity years later, although the opposite is not necessarily true: current inactivity does not predict future symptoms of depression.

This study highlights the significant influence of physical activity on improving mood and mental health, similar to the effects of antidepressants. Using a novel causal inference technique, the study provides insight into how depression and physical activity influence each other over time.


  1. Reciprocal relationship: Depression symptoms and physical activity influence each other, with increased physical activity potentially leading to decreased depression symptoms and current depression potentially reducing future physical activity.
  2. Longitudinal study: The research followed 3,499 U.S. adults from 1986 to 2011, providing robust data on changes in lifestyle and mental health over time.
  3. Advanced methodology: The study applied a novel causal inference technique that controls for individual life stories and context, providing a clearer view of the interactions between physical activity and depression.

Source: University of Toronto

New research from the University of Toronto finds that adults reporting more symptoms of depression in the past week are less likely to report physical activity during the same period, and this relationship generally goes both ways: being more active is also linked to better mental health.

Published in the journal Mental health and physical activityThe study contributes to a better understanding of how depression symptoms and physical activity are linked and influence each other in adulthood.

Overall, physical activity and mental health influence each other. Credit: Neuroscience News

“It was surprising to find that current symptoms of depression can have a negative impact on your physical activity level two to five years later, while being inactive today is not linked to your future symptoms of depression. depression,” says author Soli Dubash, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto. Department of Sociology.

“Current symptoms of depression may have lasting effects, but these may be less significant than the effects of current physical activity.”

Many studies show that going to the gym, dancing, gardening, or walking regularly can improve your mental and physical health, with effects similar to those of antidepressant medications.

The new study supports this finding, showing that weekly physical activity is linked to weekly symptoms of depression and that moving more can improve your mood.

“Better understanding the reciprocal relationship between mental health and physical activity can help people make evidence-based decisions about their health and that of their loved ones and community members,” says Dubash.

“It is important to allow people to make their own decisions about the causes and consequences of physical activity and symptoms of depression, and to understand the impact that moving more or less can have on mood and overall health.”

Following a nationally representative sample of 3,499 U.S. adults from 1986 to 2011, the study assessed the lasting effects of baseline differences in physical activity levels and depression symptoms; how past physical activity predicts future physical activity; how past depression symptoms predict future depression symptoms; and the stability of this relationship in adulthood.

This study used a new causal inference technique to ensure that these estimates represent the experiences of people around the world. The method accommodated stable characteristics of individuals, including omitted variables such as individual biology, family and community contexts, and life history.

Although the idea that depression symptoms and physical activity are linked in adulthood is not new, a new technique for examining reciprocal relationships over time allows for several considerations. alternative arguments.

“You may immediately wonder how personal factors play into this reciprocal relationship: Wouldn’t genetics or early life stories matter? – and this is what this method allows us to adjust for, compared to previous techniques which would assume some relevant evidence for these important questions. far,” says Dubash.

Overall, physical activity and mental health influence each other. From week to week, moving more can improve your mood.

This research shows that previous symptoms of depression may persist, but their long-term effects may be less impactful than current physical activity. It also shows that over time, untreated symptoms of depression can negatively impact physical activity levels, which can then lead to additional health problems.

“What really matters is that people make informed decisions about how to treat their mental health symptoms, especially knowing that physical activity continues to be one of the best ways to improve health of individuals and their communities. Yet more people need to understand how symptoms of depression can influence this process,” says Dubash.

About this research news on depression and exercise

Author: Soli Dubash
Source: University of Toronto
Contact: Soli Dubash – University of Toronto
Picture: Image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original research: Free access.
“The Interplay of Depression Symptoms and Physical Activity: Two-Way Insights from 25 Years of the US Lives Matter Panel” by Soli Dubash. Mental health and physical activity


The interplay between depression symptoms and physical activity: Two-way insights from 25 years of American life course panels.


Symptoms of depression (DSx) and insufficient physical activity (PA) are among the leading causes of disease and contribute significantly to the global public health burden. Reviews and meta-analyses indicate that DSx and PA cause each other, but most studies conducted use data and analyzes that cannot clarify their bidirectional associations across the lifespan.


The present study estimates dynamic fixed effects panel models using structural equation models with full maximum likelihood estimation (ML-SEM) based on 5 waves (1986-2011) of the American lives are changing (ACL). This is a nationally representative probability sample of 3,499 noninstitutionalized U.S. adults aged 25 and older in 1986.

Respondents participated in an average of 3.29 waves, with 67.84% participating in at least 3 waves and 27.26% participating in all 5 waves. Models adjust for age, partner status, social integration, activity limitations, and serious financial problems. Data are available from ICPSR (4690).


ML-SEM estimates reveal negative and significant bidirectional cross-sectional associations between DSx and PA. The models also indicate a negative and significant cross-lagged association between DSx and PA, but not between PA and DSx. On both sides, past levels are significantly associated with future PA and DSx levels.


This study is the first to use a causal inference technique that adjusts for all time-invariant confounding factors while modeling bidirectional links between depression symptoms and physical activity over 25 years. adulthood. It supports the literature showing a consistent cross-sectional relationship and advances the understanding of how DSx earlier in adult life may influence PA as people age.

News Source :
Gn Health

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