Study finds the best workout to improve mental health; but overindulgence might not be good

A research study on ways to combat depression has revealed that people who are engaged in team sports, cycling, aerobics or go to gym daily have a better mental health than those who do not.

The study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal in 2018 says that exercising for 45 minutes three to five times a week was associated with the biggest benefits.

Depression is affecting 5% of the world population of adults and is a leading cause of disability worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says. “Over 700 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds,” says the global health agency.

The common symptoms of depression are: sad, irritability, lack of interest in activities, poor concentration, excessive guilt or low self-worth, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite or weight, and feeling especially tired or low in energy, mood changes, and fatigue.

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More exercise is not always better, the study says.

The study included all types of physical activity, ranging from childcare, housework, lawn-mowing and fishing to cycling, going to the gym, running and skiing.

“Exercise is associated with a lower mental health burden across people no matter their age, race, gender, household income and education level. Excitingly, the specifics of the regime, like the type, duration, and frequency, played an important role in this association. 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,” Dr Adam Chekroud, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University, and Chief Scientist at Spring Health, USA told Science Daily.

For the research, authors used data from 1.2 million adults across the US in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The participants were asked to rate their mental health in the past 30 days and how often they indulged in exercises in the same duration.

“On average, participants experienced 3.4 days of poor mental health each month.

Compared to people who reported doing no exercise, people who exercised reported 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health each month — a reduction of 43.2% (2.0 days for people who exercised vs 3.4 days for people who did not exercise),” the study found.

For the study, the researchers used 75 different types of exercises and the strongest mental health link was found for team sports, cycling, aerobic and gym exercise. “Even completing household chores was associated with an improvement (reduction in poor mental health days of around 10%, or around half a day less each month),” the study says.


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