Increasing Physical Activity Could Decrease Depression Among Mexicans

There is an abundance of research that demonstrates the psychological benefits of physical activity (PA). Regular exercise can improve physical health, which directly impacts mood and well-being. People who are unhealthy and physically dependent on others tend to have higher rates of depression and more negative affect than those who are mobile, independent, and active. Although this has been established in numerous research experiments, few studies have looked at how PA affects well-being and depression in Mexican individuals. The levels of depression among Mexicans are increasing, and thus it is important to identify factors that contribute to and protect from depressive symptoms. In an effort to examine the relationship between PA and depression among Mexicans, Katia Gallegos-Carrillo, of the Research in Epidemiology and Health Services and the Mexican Social Security Institute at the Regional General Hospital in Morelos, Mexico, recently conducted a study that assessed a large sample of Mexican adults from the Health Worker Cohort Study.

Gallegos-Carrillo assessed PA and depressive symptoms at baseline and 6 years and found that the individuals with low PA had the highest levels of depression. Specifically, depression was present in 10.6% of active participants and in 16.5% of inactive participants. Gallegos-Carrillo believes that there could many reasons for this. First, having better physical health could increase self-esteem and decrease depressive symptoms. Second, the act of exercising increases endorphins, which produces a feeling of positive affect. Gallegos-Carrillo notes that changes in symptomology were not assessed throughout the 6-year period, and a closer look at symptom fluctuation could give more insight into the effects of PA. Additionally, the information used in this study was obtained from self-reports, which could reflect a biased perception of symptoms. Regardless of these limitations, Gallegos-Carrillo feels that these results have important clinical implications and should help shape future interventions aimed at increasing PA among Mexican workers. She added, “This intervention could help reduce the enormous social and economic burden of depressive disorders facing Mexico.”

Gallegos-Carrillo, K., Flores, Y. N., Denova-Gutiérrez, E., Méndez-Hernández, P., Dosamantes-Carrasco, L. D., Henao-Morán, S., et al. (2012). Physical activity and reduced risk of depression: Results of a longitudinal study of Mexican adults. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029276

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  • margie l

    margie l

    September 17th, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Hello! Increasing physical activity can help reduce depression in anyone, not just one ethnic group or another.

  • Juanita


    September 17th, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    This could be so beneficial for Mexicans for a multitude of reasons, the forst being that given the state of economic affairs of amny Mexican families, it would be good gor them to have something physica to focus on to get their minds off of the many financial difficulties that so many of them have to live with daily. Getting some exercise could help them to feel better about their daily lives and might also motivate them to take themeselves further than they once may have thought that they could.
    I also think that this could go a long way toward addressing the growing problems with obesity that also tend to plague the Mexican people. This is a culture that is very much in love with their food but unfortunately most of it is not very good for us at all. Maybe if we encourage the introduction of exercise and physical activity into more lives of Mexican people then we can eat that food without having it pose such an overall health risk to us later on.

  • william


    September 17th, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    the difference in the percentage of people with depression from the active and inactive groups is somewhat substantial but not a huge difference in my opinion.and moreover,could it not be that depressed people engage in physical activity less than non depressed individuals? that makes a lot of sense to me because when I’m feeling low I just want to stay with myself and not involve in things or activities.

  • sammy


    September 17th, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    physical activity including exercise really helps me keep negative thoughts away and even helped me have an outlet when I was going through tough times in the past.and btw I’m american, exercise and physical activity is good for everyone not just mexicans!

  • juan


    September 18th, 2012 at 4:10 AM

    Yes, I know that we would all agree that exercise and being active is a good thing. Who is going to say that it isn’t?

    But I think that we also need to keep in mind something else. This is not the only fix, and as a matter of fact I have to question whether this is a real fix or if it is just a temporary solution. Why are more Mexicans becoming depressed to begin with? What is going on in this society that is bringing out so much of this hurt? That sounds like it is a real issue that should be addressed.

  • fredrick


    September 18th, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    there is definitely something wrong when people from one community or racial background deal with a problem more than others.that reason is what we should be looking for.juan you make a good point about the same.what we need is to get to the bottom of the issue and really see why mexicans are at a disadvantage when it comes to depression and problems like that.

    physical activity might be a cure but as they say prevention is better than cure, yeah?

  • Jermaine


    September 18th, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    Well this works both ways I’m sure.Lack of physical activity can help the depression grow and being depressed hardly will let you involve in physical activities.I’ve never heard of one depressed person hitting the gym seeming all happy and going about things that boost his morale…!

  • verna m

    verna m

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    Could someone please explain to me just why so much is being pushed about increasing physical activity and decreasing depression? What is it about exercise that can have such a positive effect on our moods? Everything I have ever tried just makes me hurt and feel discouraged.

  • Helen Garvery

    Helen Garvery

    September 20th, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    @ verna m- as we get older our bodies and lifestyles change, so if you want to make the most of life, you have to find a way to get up and get moving! Don’t you feel better when you just get out of the house for a little bit and go for a walk? Or just do some things around the house that prove that you are not feeble? I know that I feel so much better when I have finished my walk and done a little stretching, maybe some gardening or just taking the chance to be outside and enjoy nature, I find that far too many people spend their days with the blinds drawn and the TV on, never thinking to get up and get moving. Just the thought of living like that is enough to depress me.

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