Recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, United States has found that the effect of exercise on depression differs for men and women.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the number one cause of disability across the globe.
Interestingly, experts have already established that disturbed sleep is a feature of depression and that exercise is a potential treatment for this mental health condition.
Although scientists considered exercise an effective treatment for depression, but a new research is disputing this theory through its investigation which found that not everyone may benefit from exercise.
According to the International journal of Mental Health Systems 43 per cent of Nigerian female participants reported depressive symptoms compared with 37 per cent of Nigerian male participants.
In the new study, the researchers asked the participants to complete three questionnaires, which asked them about their sleep, exercise, and depressive symptoms.
The scientists expected to find a link between exercise and depression, but this connection was revealed in only male participants.
The result of the study indicated that vigorous exercise had a positive effect on men who exhibited symptoms of depression, while women with depressive symptoms, on the other hand, did not benefit from any level of exercise
Weiyun Chen, the principal investigator believed that the fact that few of the women in the study participated in high-intensity exercise may explain this finding. However, this contradicts previous research.
Earlier studies pegged exercise of low-to-moderate intensity as a potential long-term treatment for depression. Vigorous physical activity releases endorphins, but regular levels of exercise can result in the growth of nerve cells.
Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said, in people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain, the region that helps regulate mood is smaller.
The latest study, which the researchers published in the Journal of American College Health, suggested that neither low- nor high-intensity exercise benefits women with depression, and this findings could be vital because depression is more prevalent in women than in men.
Both sexes did exhibited some similarities. For example, poor sleep correlated with the level of depression in both men and women.
However, the study authors were surprised to find that majority of the participants did not report feeling depressed. Close to one in seven college students received a diagnosis of depression, partly because their environment tends to lead to stress and a lack of sleep.
People with more severe symptoms of depression may be less motivated to exercise and more likely to experience disturbed sleep. As the study has shown, these individuals were more likely to be female.
Researchers must do much more work to strengthen these findings. Future studies will need to include people from numerous locations around the world to see whether the results are applicable globally. They will also need to recruit and evaluate people from different age ranges.