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Study shows regular exercise improves mental health

Study shows regular exercise improves mental health
August 9, 2018

Regular physical activity lasting 45 minutes three to five times a week can reduce poor mental health according to a new study.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal, found that all types of activity improve mental health no matter people's age or gender.

The study, involving 1.2 million people - the largest of its kind to date, saw people report their activity levels for a month and rated their mental wellbeing.

People who exercised had 1.5 fewer ‘bad days’ a month than non-exercisers, the study found.

Team sports, cycling and aerobics had the greatest positive impact.

Previous research into the effects of exercise on mental health have thrown up mixed results, and some studies suggest that lack of activity could lead to poor mental health as well as being a symptom of it.

Adults taking part in the study said they experienced on average 3.4 days of poor mental health each month. For those who were physically active, this reduced to only two days.

Among people who had been diagnosed previously with depression, exercise appeared to have a larger effect, resulting in seven days of poor mental health a month compared with nearly 11 days for those who did no exercise.

Being active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day came out as the optimal routine.

However, the study concluded that there could be such a thing as doing too much exercise.

Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University in the USA, advised "previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case.

"Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with worse mental health."

Dr Chekroud said the positive impact of team sports suggested that social sports activities could reduce isolation and be good for resilience, while also reducing depression.

The findings back up guidelines recommending that people should do 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

However, it has some limitations being based on self-reporting, which is not always accurate, with no way of measuring physical activity.

Dr Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and honorary research associate, from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University in the UK, said the link between exercise and mental health had been difficult to pin down but this large study "strongly suggests that there is a definite association between the two".

Dr Dean Burnett added “however, the nature of the study means it's difficult to say more than that with any real certainty.”

Main image courtesy of Step into Life.

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