March 20, 2009

Exercise reduces depressive symptoms

Less than an hour of daily exercise reduces depressive symptoms and improves self esteem in overweight children, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta had 207 overweight, typically sedentary children ages 7-11 randomly assigned either to continue their sedentary lifestyle or exercise for 20 or 40 minutes every day after school for an average of 13 weeks.

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, found the 40-minute group sustained the most psychological benefit.

First author Dr. Karen Petty, post-doctoral fellow in psychology, said the study found the more the exercise the better. With more exercise depressive symptoms decreased and self worth improved.

Benefits came despite the fact that the children's weight did not change much over the three months, Petty said.

The study focused on fun activities that increase heart rate -- such as running games, jumping rope, basketball and soccer -- and typically included short bursts of intense activity interspersed with lower-activity recovery periods.