- Researchers at Yale and Oxford say
exercise is more important to your mental health than
your economic status.
- The scientists found that while people who exercise
regularly tend to feel bad for 35 days a year, nonactive
participants felt bad for 18 days more.
- The team also found that certain sports that involve
socializing can have more of a positive effect on your
mental health than others.
It's clear exercise has health benefits both physical
and mental. But what if we could show it was more important
to your mental health than your economic status? According
to a study from researchers at Yale and Oxford, we may
have done just that. In the study, published in The
Lancet, scientists collected data about the physical
behavior and mental mood of more than 1.2 million Americans.
Participants could choose from 75 types
of physical activity — from lawn-mowing, childcare,
and housework to weight lifting, cycling, and running.
Participants were asked to answer the following question:
"How many times have you felt mentally unwell in
the past 30 days, for example, due to stress, depression,
or emotional problems?"
The participants were also asked about
their income and physical activities. They were able
to choose from 75 types of physical activity —
from mowing the lawn, taking care of children, and doing
housework to weight lifting, cycling, and running.
People who stay active tend
to be happier
The scientists found that while those who exercised
regularly tended to feel bad for 35 days a year, nonactive
participants felt bad for 18 days more, on average.
In addition, the researchers found that physically active
people feel just as good as those who don't do sports
but who earn about $25,000 more a year. Essentially,
you'd have to earn a lot more to get you the same happiness-boosting
effect that sport has.
But it doesn't mean the more sport
you do the happier you are.
Too much exercise can be detrimental
to your mental health
Exercise is clearly good for you, but how much is too
much? "The relationship between
sport duration and mental load is U-shaped," said
study author Adam Chekroud of Yale University in an
interview with Die Welt. The study found that physical
activity contributes to better mental well-being only
when it falls within a certain time frame.
According to the study, three to five
training sessions, each lasting between 30 to 60 minutes,
are ideal per week. The mental health of those participants
who exercised for longer than three hours a day suffered
more than that of those who weren't particularly physically
active. The scientists also noticed that certain sports
that involve socializing — such as team sports
— can have more of a positive effect on your mental
health than others. Despite the
fact that neither cycling nor aerobics and fitness technically
counts as team sports, these activities can also have
a considerable positive effect on your mental health.