People with low fitness are nearly twice as likely to experience depression

Getting fit benefits body and mind, as it's been found those with low muscle and heart health are at risk of mental health issues

Men doing martial arts exercise to fight depression
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's very well-known exercise is good for the mind as well as the body. It's directly associated with a release in our brain's reward chemicals, dopamine and serotonin. Whether we're doing pull-ups and dips outdoors or jumping on the best treadmill, working towards a goal while releasing stress and working our bodies is incredibly good for our mental health. 

Although the release of those stress-relief chemicals is thought to be short-term, exercise provides a much longer term benefit to our health, according to research from University College London. It's found people with lower cardiovascular and muscular fitness levels are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression.

The landmark study examined 152,978 participants aged 40 to 69. Using a stationary bike, the participants' fitness were tested with a grip tester and a stationary bike. It was found that the participants with the lowest fitness scores had "98% higher odds of depression, 60% higher odds of anxiety, and 81% higher odds of having either one of the common mental health disorders". 

Mental health

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is very important information. Compounding factors such as poor diet, socio-economic status and chronic illnesses can both prevent physical activity and contribute towards mental health issues. However, if you're at risk of suffering from depression and anxiety, you can take action by exercising. 

The study's senior author, Dr Joseph Hayes of the NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Our findings suggest that encouraging people to exercise more could have extensive public health benefits, improving not only our physical health but our mental health too. 

"Improving fitness through a combination of cardio exercise and strength and resistance training appears to be more beneficial than just focusing on aerobic or muscular fitness."

If gyms are still closed in your area, you can start resistance training at home with either the best adjustable dumbbells or best resistance bands. Now the summer's coming, you can get your cardio in by using the best running shoes for men or best running shoes for women

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.