It is commonly accepted that exercise is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, but its effect on a person’s mental health remains uncharted.
A study published in 2018 – ‘Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study’ – looks into this relationship to see if any evidence can be found to link the two.
Overall, the study found that “All exercise types were associated with a lower mental health burden than not exercising. The largest associations were seen for popular team sports (22·3% lower), cycling (21·6% lower), and aerobic and gym activities (20·1% lower), as well as durations of 45 min and frequencies of three to five times per week.”
What this means
In this large sample study, physical exercise was associated with improvements in mental health. It was concluded that more exercise was not always better which means specific types, durations, and frequencies of exercise might be more effective targets than others for reducing mental health burden.