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Exercise and mental health

Exercise is good for the body. And it may also be good for the mind.

Canadian researchers report that there's "considerable evidence" regular exercise can make a difference in managing mild to moderate depression, anxiety and possibly other psychiatric disorders.

The researchers based their conclusion on a recent review of studies, published since 1981, that used exercise therapy as part of treatment for certain psychiatric disorders.

One study found that depressed people experienced significantly less depression after exercising for 20 minutes to an hour, three times a week for 5 weeks. The benefits lasted up to 1 year for some.

The influence of exercise on mental health has long been debated, in part because hard evidence from controlled studies has been limited. In addition, there's no clear understanding of how and why exercise might play a role in mental health.

Because exercise generally improves quality of life, Mayo Clinic doctors believe exercise is an important component in the mix of treatments prescribed for mild to moderate depression.

Exercise, they note, needs to be tailored to a person's abilities. In more severe cases of depression, exercise alone is ineffective and needs to be combined with appropriate medical treatment.

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