Regular physical activity could help lower risk of suffering depression in old age, a new study has suggested.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, among others found that elderly people who are physically active are less depressed.
They also revealed that self-determined motivation and perceived competence are important factors in persuading elderly people to exercise more.
“We do not yet know for sure what the causal relationship between physical activity and depression is like,” said Magnus Lindwall, docent (associate professor) in exercise and health psychology at the University of Gothenburg.
“What is clear is that elderly people who are physically active are less depressed, but higher levels of depression can also lead to less exercise, and this suggests there is a mutual influence,” stated Lindwall.
Lindwall, together with research colleagues, has studied 17,500 elderly people with an average age of 64 from 11 European countries.
The subjects in the study were followed up over a period of two and a half years, among other things with regard to physical activity and depression.
“This study is one of the first to look at both how physical activity affects future depression and vice-versa, and how change in physical activity is associated with change in depression over time,” added Lindwall.
The results support the recommendations to use physical activity as a powerful preventive measure against mental ill health in the elderly.