Study Shows That a Simple Walk Can Give You the Same Mental Health Benefits as Hitting the Gym

rear view of young man with red headphones outside
New Studies Explore Exercise & Mental HealthKoldoyChris - Getty Images

At this point, saying that 'exercise is good for your mental health' is about as obvious as saying 'grass is green'. You get it. We get it. Everybody gets it. However, incase you needed convincing further, multiple new studies have shown the positive results of exercise as a lifestyle intervention in supporting the treatment of depression.

And the most promising (and relieving) thing about all of these pieces of research? They've demonstrated that to get your movement based mental health fix, you don't have to be smashing out burpees or ripping tin from the floor. In fact, studies have shown you can get the same psychological boost you experience from high intensity training from a simple walk.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University carried out an umbrella review of studies to investigate the potential of physical activity as a mental health intervention. This most recent review of seven meta-analyses, published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioural Reviews, found that higher levels of physical activity 'significantly' reduced the risk of depression (reduced by 23%) and 'notably' decreased the risk of incident anxiety (reduced by 26%).

The study also found that low to moderate intensity exercise had the most effective preventative qualities against depression. This particularly strong association was found by participating in activities such golf, walking and even gardening,

If you do prefer your exercise hit on the heavier side, a study published by Psychiatry Research found that strength training had a strong anti-depressive effect. The paper explored how effective an 8-week strength training programme was to reduce depressive symptoms in young people with depression or anxiety. The study found 'significant, clinically-meaningful, large-magnitude reductions in depressive symptoms' in the participants.

We know movement is good for us, but it's easy to conflate the differences between exercise and training. There is a time and a place for having lofty fitness goals, but don't let that detract from any motivation you may have to just doing something, no matter what intensity and duration that may be.

Of course, this doesn't mean higher intensity sessions like heading down to your CrossFit box aren't helpful, far from it. But we can see the benefits from even less taxing movement, further encouraging us to ditch the all-or-nothing mindset when it comes to our fitness.

The Research

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