A study ran at the University of Adelaide tested the impact of stopping exercise and the risk of developing depressive symptoms.

PhD student Julie Morgan, attending the University of Adelaide, researched the effects of stopping exercise in adults who are regularly active. Exercise is often included in a treatment plan for depression and has proven benefits on both physical and mental health. 

“An extensive body of clinical evidence shows that regular exercise can reduce and treat depression. However, there is limited research into what happens with depressive symptoms when exercise is stopped,” – Julie Morgan

The study consisted of 152 regularly active adults. The minimum requirement for inclusion was at least 30 minutes of exercise, 3 times a week over the course of at least 3 months. 

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“In some cases, ceasing this amount of exercise induced significant increases in depressive symptoms after just three days,” says Professor Bernhard Baune, Head of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide and senior author on the paper.

“Other studies showed that people’s depressive symptoms increased after the first one or two weeks, which is still quite soon after stopping their activities.”

The professor explains that the study found the increase in depressive symptoms in the typical biological markers associated with depression.

“Adequate physical activity and exercise are important for both physical and mental health,” – Julie Morgan.

Professor Baune notes that the amount of research in this area is not statistically significant at this point. More studies are needed to be able to truly understand the impact of stopping exercise on your mental health.

However, this study does suggest that there is undoubtedly a connection between physical health and mental health, and that we can see in some cases the increase in depressive symptoms happening as early as three days after stopping regular activities.

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