Certain Exercises May Help Relieve Depression, Experts Say

Does exercise fight depression for women as well as it does for men?

Exercise has long been considered an all-natural treatment to fight depression, but new research suggests the impact of exercise (and sleep) on depression actually varies by gender.

» RELATED: People with depression are more likely to use certain words — here’s how they express themselves

In fact, according to the new University of Michigan study, for which researchers looked at exercise and sleep patterns in more than 1,143 college students at Beijing University, no level of physical activity significantly affected depression in women.

For men, on the other hand, vigorous, high-intensity exercise and high-quality sleep helped reduce and regulate depressive symptoms.

This contradictory finding may have happened because so few women compared to men exercised at high intensity, principal investigator Weiyun Chen said in a university article.

» RELATED: 5 signs you should ask your doctor about depression

Chen and his team also examined seven sleep variables and found that on average, students reported quality sleep. About 16% of males reported poor sleep quality compared to 22% of females. More females (43%) reported symptoms of depression compared to males (37%).

“This is consistent with existing research that higher rates of depression are found among women, with approximately a 2:1 ratio of diagnosis, although suicide rates are 3 to 5 times higher among men,” Chen said.

The study was recently published online in the Journal of American College Health.

Approximately 1 in 7 college students is diagnosed with depression, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among them, according to researchers.

Nationally, 1 in 6 adults will have depression at some time in their life, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from the mental disorder, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, call or text the 24-hour hotline at 800-273-8255. For more information, go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.