• Exercise improves cardiovascular health by helping to activate parts of the brain that counteract stress.
• People with anxiety or depression had a 22 per cent risk reduction.
A little 30-minute exercise could not only improve your mood and brain function but could also potentially benefit people with depression.
The research, which was led by Jacob Meyer, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, found that exercise improves cardiovascular health by helping to activate parts of the brain that counteract stress.
The study was published in the journal 'Cardiology'.
Overall, the study found that people who achieved the recommended amount of physical activity per week were 17 per cent less likely to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event than those who exercised less.
These benefits were significantly greater in those with anxiety or depression, who had a 22 per cent risk reduction versus a 10 per cent risk reduction in those without either condition.
"The effect of physical activity on the brain's stress response may be particularly relevant in those with stress-related psychiatric conditions," Hadil Zureigat, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital and the study's lead author said.
"This is not to suggest that exercise is only effective in those with depression or anxiety, but we found that these patients seem to derive a greater cardiovascular benefit from physical activity," he added.
With the onset of the pandemic, rates of both depression and anxiety have risen and heart disease remains among the leading cause of death in Kenya.
"When one thinks about physical activity decreasing cardiovascular risk, one doesn't usually think of the brain," Zureigat said.
"Our research emphasizes the importance of the stress-related neural mechanisms by which physical activity acts to reduce cardiovascular risk," he added.
Even a little bit of regular physical activity can make a difference in terms of cardiovascular risk.
"Any amount of exercise is helpful, particularly for those with depression or anxiety," Zureigat said.
"Not only will physical activity help them feel better, but they will also potently reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. It can be hard to make the transition, but once achieved, the physical activity allows those with these common chronic stress-related psychiatric conditions to hit two birds with one stone," he concluded.