TV, Exercise and Depression

There are many studies that have demonstrated that the more you exercise the less likely you are to be depressed. A large study recently took a look at TV viewing and exercise in relationship to depression. 

The study followed nearly 50,000 nurses, ages 30-55, for a period of ten years. During this time they were periodically questioned regarding exercise levels, TV viewing, and the presence or absence of clinical depression. No one in this group was depressed at the beginning of the study. 

Depression was documented by a physician’s diagnosis of depression, the taking of anti-depressant medication, or depression diagnosed on a standardized questionnaire designed to pick up severe clinical depression. 

This study found that exercise was particularly beneficial for mental health. The first graph shows that the more a person exercises the less depression they have. Depression rates were 35% lower in those who got the most exercise compared with women who didn’t exercise. The pace of exercise was also important. Those who walked more than 3 miles per hour had the least depression. 

Television viewing resulted in increased depression. The second graph shows that those who watched more than 21 hours of TV each week were nearly 35% more likely to be depressed than those who watched the least television. 

It is a bit difficult to graphically represent the combined results, but there was a synergistic effect between TV viewing and exercise. The most depressed people were those who didn’t exercise and who watched the most TV. Those who exercised at a brisk pace and watched the least television had the least depression.

Ellen White, a 19th century health reformer, lived before radio or television but her insight squarely fits the issue of television viewing and exercise. She says, “There are many amusements that excite the mind, but depression is sure to follow. Other modes of recreation are innocent and healthful; but useful labor that affords physical exercise will often have a more beneficial influence upon the mind, while at the same time it will strengthen the muscles, improve the circulation, and prove a powerful agent in the recovery of health.” (Counsels on Health 627)

Turn off your TV. Get out and take a brisk walk. It will clear your mind and help you fight off depression.