Exercise linked to better mental health - but too much may do harm

Maricruz Casares
Agosto 10, 2018

A massive study of 1.2 million people showed those who partook in some kind of physical activity on a frequent basis were generally less stressed and depressed than those who did nothing at all.

The authors believe people doing extreme amounts of exercise might have obsessive characteristics that could place them at greater risk of depression and anxiety.

"We are now using this to try and personalise exercise recommendations, and match people with a specific exercise regime that helps improve their mental health", he added. The benefits of keeping fit and physical exercise have always been proven - exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and mortality from all causes, but its association with mental health remains unclear as previous research has produced conflicting results.

The scientists found that team sports reduced the time spent in poor mental health by 22 per cent, cycling by 21 per cent, and going to the gym by 20 per cent.

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.

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

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 almost 11 days for those who did no exercise.

How often and for how long people were active was also important.

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

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

Moderate exercise improves mental health but overdoing it does more harm than good, researchers have found.

Those who worked out more than five times a week or more than three hours a day showed poorer mental health than those who remained inactive.

The findings back up government guidelines recommending that people should do 150 minutes of physical activity per week. It is based on self-reporting, which is not always accurate, and there is no way of measuring physical activity.

"However, the nature of the study means it's hard to say more than that with any real certainty", he said. Even walking was associated with a 17·7 per cent reduction in mental health burden relative to not exercising.

Professor Stephen Lawrie, head of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, said last night: 'I suspect we all know people who seem "addicted" to exercise and if this starts to impact on other aspects of life - like foregoing social activities because one has to be up at the crack of dawn to run several miles - it might actually be bad for people.

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