Before you give up on your exercise program, know that new research suggests the decision may put more than your fitness at risk.
It might also make you vulnerable to depression, according to a review of studies. The research included 152 adults who stopped exercising after doing at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week, for a minimum of three months.
“In some cases, ceasing this amount of exercise induced significant increases in depressive symptoms after just three days,” said study senior author Bernhard Baune, head of psychiatry at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
“Other studies showed that people’s depressive symptoms increased after the first one or two weeks, which is still quite soon after stopping their exercise,” he added in a university news release.
Interestingly, the depressive symptoms that developed after people stopped exercising occurred without the typical biological markers commonly involved with depressive symptoms, Baune noted.
“This suggests some kind of novel effect in these cases, although we should add some caution here, as the number of people included in the studies we examined was small. Such findings would need to be replicated in additional trials,” he said.
The paper will appear in the July issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders.
While a large number of studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce and treat depression, little attention has been paid to the reverse relationship, according to Baune.
But the new study did not prove that stopping exercise actually caused depression, just that there was an association.
“For now, it is important that people understand the potential impact on their mental well-being when they suddenly cease regular exercise,” Baune said.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on depression.