Exercise Is Associated With Improved Mental Health

Desiree Burns
August 12, 2018

The investigators found that cycling, team-oriented sports, and aerobic exercise are beneficial for mental health.

Among the 75 types of exercise recorded, all types were linked with better mental health.

In this study, while the links between regular exercise and better mental health were clear, the researchers said they could not show cause and effect.

Conversely, people doing extreme amounts of exercise might have obsessive characteristics which could place them at greater risk of poor mental health, the researchers said.

"I think it makes sense", said Adam Chekroud, study author and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University.

"Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and there is an urgent need to find ways to improve mental health through population health campaigns", said Dr. Chekroud.

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"Excitingly, the specifics of the regime, like the type, duration, and frequency, played an important role in this association".

The investigation was focused on 1.2 million adults across the United States who had participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

Depression was the only mental health taken into account during the study.

After adjusting for factors such as income, marital status, race, age, BMI, previous diagnosis of depression, education level, and employment status the average number of days reported as being of poor mental health was 3.4 in 30 days, with participants who exercised reporting 3.4 fewer days of poor mental health; and the largest decrease in numbers of poor mental health days was seen among participants with previous depression diagnosis. The people who exercised only reported two such days, 1.5 less than those who do notexercise so exercising reduced 43.2 percent of poor mental health days. Many studies suggest that exercising helps people solve a mental health problem and boost their well-being.

Regular physical activity lasting 45 minutes three to five times a week can reduce poor mental health - but doing more than that is not always beneficial, a large U.S. study suggests. Exercising on more than 23 days a month and in sessions lasting 90 minutes or more were actually associated with worse mental health.

Exercising for 30-60 minutes was associated with the biggest reduction in poor mental health days.

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