CNN  — 

Science shows moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise is good for us – it improves sleep; lowers blood pressure; protects against heart disease, diabetes and cancer; reduces stress; boosts mood; and fights anxiety and depression.

It’s especially important in adolescence, where the first signs of depression often begin, studies show. But unless your child is an athlete, it can be tough to wean them away from social media and the ever-present screen to swim laps or go for a blood-pumping jog.

A new study has some good news: even light exercise may help protect children against developing depression.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, found that 60 minutes of simple movement each day at age 12 was linked to an average 10% reduction in depression at age 18. The types of movement ranged from running and biking to walking, doing chores, painting or playing an instrument.

“It’s not just more intense forms of activity that are good for our mental health,” Aaron Kandola, a PhD student in psychiatry at University College London and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“A lot of initiatives promote exercise in young people, but our findings suggest that light activity should be given more attention as well,” senior author Dr. Joseph Hayes, a psychiatrist and clinical research consultant at University College London, said in a statement.

“Schools could integrate light activity into their pupils’ days, such as with standing or active lessons,” Hayes said. “It doesn’t require much effort and it’s easy to fit into the daily routines of most young people.”

Long-term results

The study used information from the University of Bristol’s Children of the ’90s study, which has been following 14,500 women and their children for 30 years, from pregnancy onward.