Higher levels of physical exercise linked to reduced depressive symptoms in older adults

Physical exercise appears to have a significant and beneficial impact on depression in older adults, according to new research published in the journal Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte.

Depressive disorder is a serious health problem in older people. Depression consists of feelings of loneliness, helplessness, worthlessness and sometimes leads to suicide. Research shows that traditional therapies, such as psychotherapy, are not as effective in treating depression in older adults due to the unique physiological and psychological characteristics of older adults. Researcher Linyan Dang, from Henan Finance University in China, was interested in studying the effects of physical exercise on depression in the elderly.

Dang recruited 145 men and 125 women over the age of 60 to complete the survey items of the Physical Exercise Scale and the Concise Depression Scale for Older People and Brink for Older People. The results of this study show that most of the participants had a positive attitude towards physical exercise. About 25% of the participants were classified as suffering from depression, of which 6% suffered from severe depression.

The data show a negative correlation between marital status and health status and depression in that people with the worst marital status and health status were more depressed. Data analyzes showed that depression scores were lower in participants who had a more positive attitude towards exercise, exercised moderately intensely, exercised more often, and had a best experience after exercise.

For example, seniors who report exercising 3-4 times per week are more depressed than those who exercise 5-7 times per week. Additionally, depression scores were lower for people who exercised with a partner than alone. This study also shows that women were slightly more depressed than men.

Dang argues that exercise in the elderly cannot be ignored when it comes to depression because exercise appears to alleviate depressive symptoms more than other therapies. She also argues that older adults should maintain a positive attitude towards exercise and make it part of their daily routine. Including physical exercise in a daily routine may help prevent depression in older adults, but more research is needed.

The study, “Exercises to Relieve the Current State of Depression”, was published on November 29, 2021.

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