Scientists have confirmed the long-held belief that exercising can stave off depression and anxiety, but only if it is made to be fun.
Experts from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, carried out a study with colleagues in Norway, where more than 40,000 residents were canvassed.
The research showed that participants who did not exercise in their leisure time were almost twice as likely to suffer symptoms of depression than the most active individuals. However, people who exert themselves physically at work, such as people who work in construction, were no less likely to suffer depression than those in desk jobs.
Participants were asked how often they engaged in both light and intense physical activity during their leisure time. Light activity was defined as one that that did not lead to being sweaty or out-of-breath, unlike intense activity. People were also asked how physically active they were at work.
All the volunteers were given a physical examination and answered questions aimed at assessing their levels of depression and anxiety.
The study found that individuals who took part in regular physical activity - however mild or intense - were less likely to have symptoms of depression. The more people engaged in physical activity in their spare time, the less chance they had of being depressed.
The findings are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.