Ex­er­cis­ing 3 to 5 times a week brings the big­gest ben­e­fits for men­tal health

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Fitness -

A NEW large-scale US study has found that peo­ple who ex­er­cise re­port hav­ing 1.5 fewer days of poor men­tal health a month, com­pared to peo­ple who do not ex­er­cise. How­ever, work­ing out too much could ac­tu­ally have the op­po­site ef­fect. Con­ducted by a team at Yale Univer­sity, Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal and the Lau­re­ate In­sti­tute for Brain Re­search, US, along with the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, UK, this is the largest ob­ser­va­tional study of its kind. It looked at more than 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple in the US to in­ves­ti­gate the in­flu­ence of ex­er­cise type, fre­quency, du­ra­tion, and in­ten­sity on men­tal health.

Par­tic­i­pants were asked to com­plete sur­veys in 2011, 2013, and 2015, an­swer­ing ques­tions on their phys­i­cal health, ex­er­cise be­hav­iours, and their men­tal health, re­port­ing on how many days they would rate it as ‘not good’ based on stress, de­pres­sion and emo­tional prob­lems. The study did not take men­tal health dis­or­ders other than de­pres­sion into ac­count. The re­searchers in­cluded 75 kinds of ex­er­cise in the study, from child­care, house­work, lawn-mow­ing and fish­ing to cy­cling, run­ning and ski­ing.

They also took into ac­count fac­tors like age, gen­der, and pre­vi­ous di­ag­noses of de­pres­sion. On av­er­age, par­tic­i­pants ex­pe­ri­enced 3.4 days of poor men­tal health a month. How­ever, those who ex­er­cised re­ported two days of poor men­tal health each month -- 1.5 fewer days than those who re­ported do­ing no ex­er­cise, and a re­duc­tion of 43.2 per cent. “Ex­er­cise is as­so­ci­ated with a lower men­tal health bur­den across peo­ple no mat­ter their age, race, gen­der, house­hold in­come and ed­u­ca­tion level,” said study co-author Dr Adam Chekroud.

“Ex­cit­ingly, the specifics of the regime, like the type, du­ra­tion, and fre­quency, played an im­por­tant role in this as­so­ci­a­tion.” All the types of ex­er­cise in­cluded in the study were as­so­ci­ated with im­proved men­tal health. Even do­ing house­hold chores was linked to a 10 per cent re­duc­tion in poor men­tal health days a month, equal to around half a day. The largest re­duc­tions were seen for team sports (22.3 per cent re­duc- tion), cy­cling (21.6 per cent), and aer­o­bic and gym ac­tiv­i­ties (20.1 per cent).

“Our find­ing that team sports are as­so­ci­ated with the low­est men­tal health bur­den may in­di­cate that so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties pro­mote re­silience and re­duce de­pres­sion by re­duc­ing so­cial with­drawal and iso­la­tion, giv­ing so­cial sports an edge over other kinds,” ex­plained Dr Chekroud. How­ever, when it came to how of­ten and how long peo­ple should ex­er­cise for to reap the ben­e­fits, it ap­peared that more was not al­ways bet­ter.

Those who ex­er­cised for 45 min­utes, three to five times a week, had bet­ter men­tal health than those who ex­er­cised less or more each week. Dr Chekroud said, “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.” The re­sults were pub­lished in The Lancet Psy­chi­a­try. – Re­laxnews

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