Physical Activity Linked To Improved Mental Health, But Don’t Overdo It, Says Study

In In The Press, Individual, Industry News by Paul Howell

The benefits of regular exercise are well known when it comes to improving your physical health, but now a new study has revealed how regular physical activity can also give your mental health a boost too.

According to the study of some 1.2 million people in the US, the findings of which were published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, just 45 minutes of regular physical activity three to five times a week can reduce poor mental health. However, the study also found that doing any more than that is not always beneficial.

Specifically, when it came to mental health, the researchers found that people who exercised regularly had 1.5 fewer “bad days” per month than those who didn’t. While things like cycling, aerobics and team sports were discovered to afford the greatest positive impact, any types of activity were found to be beneficial, including doing household chores and looking after the kids.

But while the study is the largest of its kind to date, it does not definitively confirm that physical activity is the cause of improved mental health.

For a start, the study relied on participants self-reporting their levels of physical activity and the state of their mental health. Such an approach is limited by the inaccuracy of allowing people to report their own findings, with over- and under-estimations frequently occurring.

Regular Exercise Also Promotes Physical Health Boosts

Nevertheless, regular exercise is known to reduce the risk of certain conditions such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. So it’s a win-win if it boosts the state of your mental health too!

Interestingly, the study suggests that too much physical activity can actually be a bad thing for mental health. While exercising for 30-60 minutes was linked to the best mental health improvement, doing more than three hours a day actually had a negative impact – even worse than doing none at all.

The researchers noted that individuals who did extreme amounts of exercise could have “obsessive characteristics” and experience poorer mental health as a result.

Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, 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 study authors also noted that one of the reasons why team sports are associated with better mental health is because they help reduce social withdrawal and isolation.

Current UK government guidelines recommend adults aged 19-64 to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week.

So the advice is clear: try and do at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to five times a week to stand the best chance of boosting your mental health.

I joined Premier Choice Group as an SME/Corporate Consultant in 2017 and look after the Healthcare & Protection needs of a nationwide portfolio. I began my career in Healthcare and Protection in 1985 with BUPA, before moving on to  Royal & Sun Alliance. In 2002, I became an Intermediary and worked with Private Clients, SME’s and Corporate clients on a local, national and international basis.