For the more than six million men in the U.S. who have depression each year, researchers have some advice: walk it off. Activities like running and working out can reduce anxiety and improve mood. It’s not just vigorous exercise, however, that has these kinds of benefits. A new study, published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, found that walking may be just as effective at alleviating depression. In men, depression is less likely to show up as “sadness.” Because men tend to keep their emotions locked inside, symptoms appear more often as irritability or aggressiveness. Depression can be treated with antidepressants, but drugs are not recommended for mild cases of depression. In the recent findings, researchers reviewed several other studies that investigated the benefits of walking for depression. They found that walking has a “large effect” on the symptoms of depression, similar to what is seen with more active forms of exercise. Researchers caution that the studies that they examined looked at specific groups of people, so the results may not transfer to the general population. Further research is also needed to determine what type of walking program works best, in terms of frequency, intensity and duration. Walking, though, is inexpensive and can be done by most people. You can also easily fit extra activity into your life by getting off the subway one stop early, or taking the stairs to your next meeting. Used in conjunction with proper medical treatment, walking may be a simple and effective way to elevate your mood.
Walking may be as effective as more vigorous exercise for alleviating depression.