You already know that all-too-brief endorphin rush you get after a brisk jog, but new research is suggesting exercise might be an even greater long-term mood-enhancer. According to a new 50-year study published in JAMA Psychiatry, people who exercise exhibit fewer depressive symptoms over the course of their lives.
Researchers from the UK and Canada looked at 11,000 people born in the same week in 1958, tracking them for the next 50 years. The participants were polled on their exercise habits at four different points in their lives: ages 23, 33, 42 and 50. They answered questions regarding any depressive symptoms they were experiencing, like irritability, fatigue, anxiety and low mood.
Here’s the finding worth paying attention to: it’s never too late to begin an exercise regimen. At every age, those who exercised more reported fewer symptoms of depression. And for those who increased exercise between any of the intervals researchers tracked? They reported fewer depressive signs at the next milestone age. So, a 23-year-old who ups their exercise regimen would have fewer depression symptoms at age 33. Increasing workouts at any age is beneficial; those who went from exercising zero times a week to three times a week reduced their odds of depression by 19 percent in just five years’ time.
If you feel like you’ve heard similar research in the past, you have. However, the length of this study (and the finding that exercise holds key benefits any age you start) really upholds the long-term mental protection you get from a good, regular workout. In fact, It’s amazing what exercise can do for your mind and your body, everything from improving the look of aging skin, to stabilizing blood pressure, to protecting the brain from potentially-harmful substances. And with a million ways to get a workout—spinning, running, biking, yoga, Pilates, sports, etc.—you can improve your physical and mental well-being in flash.
The researchers suggest docs might add exercise to their depression treatment plans, but you can add it (or step it up) in your daily life right now. It’s never too late to get even healthier (and happier).