New evidence suggests that even a small exercise – for example, 15 minutes of jogging a day – can reduce the risk of depression.

A recent study by the Massachusetts General Hospital looked at more than 600,000 adults and assessed their genetic makeup, history, and physical activity. Researchers found that participants who exercise genetically more often may develop less depression.

"Previous studies have shown an association, and people doing sports have less depression," said Drs. David Agus on Thursday for "CBS This Morning". "But this study, in a very clever genetic way, in which they could actually use genetics to randomize people … showed causality.

The key is to be active every day. "Fifteen minutes of jogging, one hour in the garden, go out and do something," Agus said. His rule of thumb? Increase your heart rate by 50 percent compared to the 15 minutes of activity.

"If your heart rate starts at 60, start at 90. This is not a crazy exercise, which means you do not even need to sweat or get out of breath, only exercise is crucial," said Agus.

According to estimates by the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016 an estimated 16.2 million adults in the US had at least one major depressive episode.

Agus said he hopes this latest research will influence how doctors treat depression.

"My patients, when they come in and say," I'm starting to be a bit depressed and not doing so much. "First, we do not prescribe a pill, but go out and do something," Agus said.

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

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