Exercising during your leisure time can keep the blues away.
Physical activity can almost halve your risk of depression - but only if you build up a sweat in your leisure time, according to a study.

Researchers from King's College London found people who take regular exercise are far less likely to be depressed.

But the benefit was not felt by people who exerted themselves at work, for instance by digging up roads or performing heavy lifting.

The team of scientists studied just over forty thousand Norwegian residents. They asked them how often they engaged in both light and intense physical activity during their leisure time.

Light activity was defined as one that that did not lead to being sweaty or out-of-breath, unlike intense activity. The participants were also asked how physically active they were at work.

All the volunteers were given a physical examination and answered questions aimed at assessing their levels of depression and anxiety.

The study found that individuals who took part in regular physical activity - however mild or intense - were less likely to have symptoms of depression. However, this only held true when activity was part of leisure.

The more people engaged in physical activity in their spare time, the less chance they had of being depressed.

Those who were not active in their leisure time were almost twice as likely to suffer symptoms of depression than the most active individuals.

The findings are published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Lead researcher Dr Samuel Harvey said:
'Our study shows that people who engage in regular leisure-time activity of any intensity are less likely to have symptoms of depression.

'We also found that the context in which activity takes place is vital and that the social benefits associated with exercise, like increased numbers of friends and social support, are more important in understanding how exercise may be linked to improved mental health than any biological markers of fitness.

'This may explain why leisure activity appears to have benefits not seen with physical activity undertaken as part of a working day.'