April 15, 2024
Just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day has this positive effect

There are many good reasons to exercise regularly. Whether it’s to shed pounds or prevent heart disease, the benefits of exercise are well documented. It is also good for our psyche. A new study has found out what effect daily brisk walking can have on this.

Do you play sports every day? For some it is a matter of course, for others it is almost impossible to achieve. But it doesn’t have to be the daily two hours of endurance sports or strength training to exhaustion. At least when you look at the effect of exercise on mental health. An Irish study came to the conclusion that just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day can have a huge effect and reduce the risk of depression.

depression in the elderly

Depression is one of the most common diseases. According to the German Depression Aid and Suicide Prevention Foundation, about 8 percent of German adults (18 to 79 years old) fall ill in the course of a year. That’s about five million people.1 Children and over 80s are excluded.

In older people, depression is the second most common mental illness after dementia. The risk of suicide due to depression increases with age, especially in men.2

Also interesting: Depression, anxiety disorders and eating disorders are so prevalent in Germany

course of the study

Since sport is known to be good for the psyche and a 2022 study showed that moderate to intense daily exercise can help with existing depression (reported by FITBOOK), Irish researchers now wanted to find out if daily exercise can helping to prevent it can help too – and what minimal amount of moderate to intensive training would be needed for that.3

To do this, scientists from the University of Limerick and Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) used data from the long-term study “Irish Longitudinal Study On Aging”. The analysis included 4,016 people over the age of 50 (average age, 61) whose health and fitness data spanned a ten-year period. The subjects were interviewed and/or examined at five different times. Data collection in each wave included detailed information on demographic, health, lifestyle and social factors, collected through a self-completed questionnaire, a health assessment by a nurse, or an interview.4

In their current study, the researchers weighed all of this information in view of the possible connection between sports and depression. They applied established guidelines for medical observational studies and came to interesting conclusions.

Also cool: A simple trick while walking apparently keeps you looking younger for longer

Here’s how 20 minutes of daily light exercise – like B. Walk

The analysis found that a 20-minute session of exercise five days a week, comparable to a brisk walk each day, was associated with a 16% lower rate of depressive symptoms and a 43% lower chance of major depression. Furthermore, a so-called dose-effect relationship was found, i.e. increased physical activity increases the protection against depression.

More than 20 minutes and less than 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise resulted in a 16% lower risk of depressive symptoms and a 41% lower chance of major depression, according to the analysis. Physical activity between 60 and 120 minutes a day reduced the risk by 23% (depressive symptoms) and 49% (major depression), respectively.

The results were similar in older adults without and those with chronic diseases. They persisted even after adjusting for relevant health-related factors such as gender, education, age, smoking and alcohol use, obesity, antidepressant use, and time spent.5

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With their study, the researchers want to further emphasize the benefits of exercise and at the same time lower the hurdle. Because while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week, the current study was able to show that only 90 minutes have a positive effect on health.

Of course, it should be noted that WHO focuses not only on the psyche, but on health as a whole when making its recommendations – and Irish researchers have also found that more training is even better. But for people who can’t pull themselves together when faced with the 150-minute rule, the knowledge that even less has demonstrable positive influences can give them the motivation to incorporate exercise into their daily lives.

The German Depression Aid recommends that you address those affected openly and, if necessary, help them to contact a doctor or psychotherapist. Sometimes it may even be necessary to take them to a psychiatric emergency room. If you have suicidal thoughts yourself: The telephone advice service on 0800 111 0 111 or 0800 111 0 222 is free and available around the clock. Please get help!


  • 1. German Foundation for Depression Aid and Suicide Prevention. What is Depression? – Frequency. (accessed July 13, 2023)
  • 2. German Foundation for Depression Aid and Suicide Prevention. depression in old age. (accessed July 13, 2023)
  • 3. Mayer, JD, Murray, TA, Brower, CS, et al. (2022) Extent, timing, and duration of mood state and cognitive effects of acute moderate exercise in major depressive disorder. Sport and exercise psychology.
  • 4. Laird, E., Rasmussen, CL, Kenny, RA et al. (2023). Dose of physical activity and depression in an elderly cohort in the Irish Longitudinal Study of Aging. JAMA Network.
  • 5. University of Limerick. UL research reveals that lower levels of physical activity may protect against depression among older adults. (aufgerufen 13.7.2023)

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