New study finds not being able to exercise can increase the risk of depression after just two days

Any runner who has ever been told to take time off after an injury will know how much missing runs can affect their mood. In fact, it’s long been understood that running, and exercise in general is good for an individuals’ physical and mental health; numerous studies show that even a single run can boost one’s mood, and this benefit builds over time.

However, whilst lots of studies prove that exercise improves symptoms of depression, until now, there has not been a great amount of research into how someone’s mental health is affected when ceasing exercise.

Scientists from University of Adelaide sought to investigate this connection by analysing the effects on participants’ mental health when they went from exercising regularly, to not exercising at all. 152 healthy adults were studied, 50 of whom were female. Each of the adults involved in the study had previously exercised for at least 30 minutes for a minimum of three times a week.

During the study, researchers analysed results from previous studies to spot changes in the participants. They found that the impact of ceasing exercise on the participant’s mental health was seen almost immediately. The researchers recognised depressive symptoms in some of the participants after just three days, for others, it took up to two weeks for the symptoms to arise.

Researchers also found the female participants had significantly more depressive symptoms after stopping exercise than their male counterparts.

Head of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide, Professor Bernhard Baune said: “In some cases, ceasing this amount of exercise induced significant increases in depressive symptoms after just three days.” 

Baune also highlighted the fact that the lack of research into this specific area and the small sample size means further studies are needed before true conclusions are drawn. “For now, it is important that people understand the potential impact on their mental well-being when the suddenly cease regular exercise,” he said.  

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