can play a vital role in
depression, a study has claimed.
The study in the journal
Mental Health and Physical Activity showed walking had a "large effect" on
exercise has already been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression, but the
effect of less strenuous activities was unclear.
One in 10 people may have depression at some point in their lives. The condition
can be treated with drugs, but exercise is commonly prescribed by doctors for
Researchers at the University of Stirling scoured academic studies to find data
on one of the mildest forms of exercise, walking. They found eight studies, on a
total of 341 patients, which fitted the bill.
The report's authors showed "walking was an effective intervention for
depression" and had an effect similar to other more vigorous forms of exercise.
"Walking has the advantages of being easily undertaken by most people, incurring
little or no financial cost and being relatively easy to incorporate into daily
living," they said.
However, they cautioned that much more research needed to be done. There are
still questions over how long, how fast and whether walking should take place
indoors or outdoors.
Prof Adrian Taylor, who studies the effects of exercise on depression, addiction
and stress at the University of Exeter, told the BBC: "The beauty of walking is
that everybody does it."
"There are benefits for a mental-health condition like depression," he added.
How any form of exercise helps with depression is unclear. Taylor said there
were ideas about exercise being a distraction from worries, giving a sense of
control and releasing "feel-good" hormones.
The mental-health charity 'Mind' said its own research found that spending time
outdoors helped people's mental health.