Exercise away the blues

Exercise isn't just great for your body. The benefits of exercise are also terrific for your brain -- and if you get a little movement today and every day, you could slash your risk of battling depression in the years ahead.

And you barely have to break a sweat.

Get just 20 to 30 minutes a day of light activity -- even something as simple as a stroll through the park -- and your risk of developing depression as you get older will plunge, according to a new review of the research on the benefits of exercise.

The link is so clear that of the 30 studies used in the analysis, 25 found a benefit -- and the benefit was found across all age groups. And while this study focused on the long-term mental health benefits of exercise, we know from other studies it's not the only benefit.

Not by a long run.

If you happen to get depressed, exercise is actually an effective cure -- so much so that studies have found it works as well as some medications, but without any of the risks.

Along with fighting and preventing depression, regular exercise can help your brain in so many other ways. It can lift your mood, beat anxiety and even fight stress -- including the chronic stress that can damage your immune system and boost your disease risk.

The benefits of exercise can even slash your risk of dementia.

Part of the brain benefit of course comes from overall good health that comes from exercise. And part of it comes from the feel-good brain-healthy endorphins unleashed by exercise -- the same reaction that produces the so-called "runner's high," although you don't have to actually run to feel it yourself.

Just put your body through the paces with some movement. Walking, gardening, swimming, biking, skiing -- it all counts, as long as you do it regularly and do it often.