Exercise and mental health

According to a study, exercise greatly improves our perceived mental health, which could have a direct influence on mood and personal care behaviors, for example.

Exercise and mental health

Exercise and mental health are two directly related factors . According to numerous studies, physical exercise can help manage mental health problems or increase personal well-being. On the other hand, a recent study confirms a hypothesis that should serve as a warning: too much exercise can compromise mental health.

Thanks to the largest observational study so far on the relationship between exercise and mental health it was concluded that people who play sports have fewer mental health problems . In average, 1.5 days less per month.

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Furthermore, it turned out that team sports, such as cycling, aerobics and going to the gym, are associated with increased well-being. This study was conducted by researchers from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut (United States).

The goal is better understand how physical exercise affects a person's mental health. They also tried to establish the best physical activities to get an emotional impulse. Researchers have also wondered when exercise becomes excessive. In the magazine The Lancet Psychiatry was published on article containing this and other discoveries.

'Exercise is associated with better mental health in people, regardless of age, race, gender, family income and education level,' said Dr Adam Chekround, lead author of the study. Chekround also explains: '[...] the details of the distribution of exercise, as well as the type, duration and frequency, played an important role in this association. We are now building on this to try to personalize physical activity recommendations and unite people with a specific exercise regimen that helps improve mental health. '


Relationship between exercise and mental health

Scholars have found that Exercising for 45 minutes 3 to 5 times a week produces greater benefits. It refers to any type of physical activity, such as caring for children, do housework , mowing the grass, fishing, cycling, going to the gym, running and skiing.

We know that sport reduces the risk of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, diabetes and, therefore, mortality. But the relationship with mental health is not yet completely clear, in fact the results obtained are contradictory.

Although some tests suggest that exercise improves mental health, the opposite is also true. For example, inactivity could be a symptom and a contributing factor to poor mental health, while activity could be a sign or factor that contributes to resilience. The authors report that the study cannot establish what is the cause and what the effect.

The study authors used data from 1.2 million adults from the 50 states of the United States. People who participated in the investigation of the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (from English, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System ) in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The data used were demographics, information on physical and mental health and health behaviors. The study did not consider others mental disorders in addition to depression.

Participants were asked to calculate in how many in the past 30 days had had a feeling of mental illness related to stress, depression and other emotional problems.

In addition, they were asked how often they had exercised in the past 30 days outside of their usual work, how many times a week or month they had exercised and for how long. All results were adjusted for age, race, sex, marital status, income, education level, employment status, body mass index, self-reported physical health and prior diagnosis of depression.

On average, participants experienced 3.4 days per month of poor mental health. Compared to the people who reported not exercising, people who did instead reported 1.5 fewer days of mental ill health each month, a reduction of 43.2% (2 days for people who had exercised compared to 3.4 days for those who hadn't).

Fewer days of poor mental health were more frequent for people with a prior diagnosis of depression . In this case, exercise showed 3.75 fewer days of mental ill health, a 34.5% reduction (7.1 days for people who exercised before the 10.9 days of who instead had been more sedentary).

Overall, 75 physical activities were recorded and grouped into eight categories: aerobic and gymnastic exercise, cycling, housework, group sports, recreation, running and jogging, walking, and winter or water sports.

All of these activities have been associated with better mental health. But the researchers they observed in group sports, therefore cycling, ae robica and gymnastics, the strongest associations for all participants. A reduction in days of mental illness respectively of 22.3%, 21.6% and 20.1%. Completing household chores also resulted in an improvement (about 10% fewer days of poor mental health, or about half a day less per month).

The relationship between exercise and better mental health was greater than that between mental health and other social or demographic factors (a 43.2% reduction in mental ill health). For example, college-educated people had 17.8% fewer days of good mental health than uneducated people. People with normal body mass index had 4% less than obese people. Furthermore, people with incomes above $ 50,000 showed about 17% less than people with lower incomes.

Exercise and mental health: a combination that is not always a winning one

Frequency and time spent exercising are also important factors. People who exercised three to five times a week claimed to have better mental health than those who exercised less or more during the week (which is associated with about 2.3 fewer days of poor mental health than people who only exercised twice a month).

Playing sports for 30-60 minutes has been linked to a greater reduction in days of poor mental health (associated with about 2.1 fewer days of poor mental health than in people who did not play sports). People who played sports for more than 90 minutes a day instead showed minimal reductions. Exercising more than three hours a day has been associated with poor mental health.

The authors report that people who exercise excessively can have obsessive characteristics. Such characteristics could put them at high risk for poor mental health.

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Couple doing sports at the beach


The researchers argue that the data on the relationship between team sports and better mental health may indicate that social activities promote resilience and reduce depression with the consequent reduction of social isolation, giving social sports an advantage over others.

People's self-assessment of their mental health and exercise levels was used. Therefore, we are talking about perceived mental health and not objective mental health. Furthermore, the research asked participants only for the main form of exercise. There could, therefore, be a good amount of uncontrolled variability when considering people who perform more than one physical activity.

Overtraining Syndrome

Overtraining Syndrome

In addition to being harmful, doing too much sport can cause the so-called overtraining syndrome. Let's see what it is.