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Walking 'may ease depression'

“Going for a brisk stroll could play an important role in fighting depression,” BBC News has reported.

Current evidence suggests that physical activity can be useful for reducing the symptoms of depression, but previous examinations of research have not specifically looked at the benefits of walking for depression. In order to improve our understanding of the issue, Scottish researchers conducted a systematic search for all relevant medical trials on the subject, combining their results into a single analysis.

The researchers found eight relevant studies featuring a total of 341 people. Overall, the combined results of these trials suggested that walking reduced the symptoms of depression. However, the trials were small, and they varied in the types of people they included, the walking programmes they used and what they compared walking to. This limits the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn about the effects of walking in specific groups of people with depression.

However, this is not the first research to have suggested that physical activity is beneficial for depressive symptoms. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) currently recommends considering structured group physical activity programmes as a treatment option for some forms of depression.

As the authors of the review note, walking is a form of physical activity that most people can take part in safely and at minimal cost. More research is now needed to determine exactly what duration and frequency of walking is most effective for depressive symptoms.

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