ISLAMABAD  – Taking a brisk walk could play an important role in fighting depression, according to researchers in Scotland. Vigorous exercise has already been shown to lessen symptoms of depression, but the effect of less strenuous activities was unclear. A study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity showed walking had a “large effect” on depression. One in 10 people may suffer from depression at some point in their lives. The condition can be treated with drugs, but doctors, for mild symptoms commonly prescribe exercise.

Researchers at the University of Stirling scoured academic studies to find data on one of the mildest forms of exercise - walking. They found eight studies, on a total of 341 patients, which fitted the bill. The report’s authors showed “walking was an effective intervention for depression” and had an effect similar to other more vigorous forms of exercise. “Walking has the advantages of being easily undertaken by most people, incurring little or no financial cost and being relatively easy to incorporate into daily living,” the BBC quoted the authors as saying. However, they cautioned that much more research needed to be done. There are still questions over how long, how fast and whether walking should take place indoor or outdoors. Prof Adrian Taylor, who studies the effects of exercise on depression, addiction and stress at the University of Exeter, told the BBC. “The beauty of walking is that everybody does it,” Prof Adrian Taylor, who studies the effects of exercise on depression, addiction and stress at the University of Exeter, said. “There are benefits for a mental-health condition like depression,” he said.

How any form of exercise helps with depression is unclear. Prof Taylor said there were ideas about exercise being a distraction from worries, giving a sense of control and releasing “feel-good” hormones. The mental-health charity ‘Mind’ said its own research found that spending time outdoors helped people’s mental health.

To get the most from outdoor activities it’s important to find a type of exercise you love and can stick at.

Try different things, be it walking, cycling, gardening or even open-water swimming,” Paul Farmer, chief executive of ‘Mind’, said.

“Exercising with others can have even greater impact, as it provides an opportunity to strengthen social networks, talk through problems with others or simply laugh and enjoy a break from family and work. So ask a friend to join you,” he added.

Cholesterol ‘may have cancer-fighting goodness’

In a new study, scientists have argued that cholesterol may slow or stop cancer cell growth. The study, which includes a Simon Fraser University researcher, describes how cholesterol-binding proteins called ORPs may control cell growth in A Detour for Yeast Oxysterol Binding Proteins.

The scientists came to their conclusion while trying to understand how cholesterol moves around inside cells in the fat’s journey to cell surfaces where it reinforces their outer membrane.

“The assumption was that ORPs bind and transport cholesterol inside cells in a similar fashion to how lipoproteins bind and move around the fat outside cells through the blood stream,” Chris Beh, said.

Beh and his colleagues noted that genetic changes engineered by them block the ability of ORPs to bind cholesterol but don’t stop ORPs from functioning.

In fact, these altered ORPs work better and activate other regulator proteins, which in turn trigger a variety of cellular processes that stimulate cell growth.

The scientists believe this happened because cholesterol-binding normally interferes with ORPs’ ability to bind to another lipid or fat called PI4P, which is important for cell growth. “That told us that ORPs probably have nothing to do with moving around cholesterol within cells.

“Rather cholesterol-binding puts the brakes on ORP’s ability to bind to PI4P which, if left unchecked, could accelerate cell growth like crazy.

“Given that uncontrolled cell growth is a key feature of cancer, this means gaining a better understanding of the true purpose of cholesterol-binding within cells could be important in cancer treatment,” he said.

Beh and his colleagues draw on two important facts to support their conclusion. “First, cancer cells require ORPs to survive.

“Second, other scientists have previously shown that a new class of natural compounds that look like steroids or cholesterol can kill a broad spectrum of different cancer cells,” he added. The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Exercise ‘reduces death risk from cardiovascular disease’

Exercise reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease in people suffering from high blood pressure, a new study has revealed.

In the study, all-cause and CVD mortality risks were found to be significantly higher among study participants who didn’t exercise as compared with active participants at all blood pressure levels.

Moreover, the excess mortality risks of physical inactivity, when converted into a “blood pressure equivalence of physical activity” measurement, revealed that physical inactivity was similar to a rise in mortality risk equivalent to an increase in blood pressure of 40-50 mmHg.

“The risk of developing CVD has been proven to increase significantly as blood pressure increases; and reducing blood pressure to reduce CVD risk is an important treatment goal for all physicians,” CP Wen, from the National Health Research Institute, Taiwan, said.

“This study is the first to quantify the impact of exercise on the risk profile of people with high blood pressure. Appreciating this relationship will hopefully help to motivate people with high blood pressure that are inactive to take exercise.

“To date, exercise and high blood pressure have been managed separately, with people mainly being concerned about their blood pressure readings. However, these results suggest that doctors should also discuss the importance of physical exercise as a means to manage the CVD and all-cause mortality risk,” Wen said.

The prospective study of 434,190 individuals in Taiwan was conducted over a period of 12 years. Of the participants 54 percent were classified as inactive, 22 percent as low active and 24 per cent were considered to be medium, or above, active.

All-cause and CVD mortality risk of inactive subjects were compared with active subjects. The blood pressure equivalence of physical activity was then identified by the difference in mortality risks between physically inactive and active subjects.