Limits to mental health benefits of exercise


  • Danielle Barron
  • Univadis Medical News
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Particular types, duration, and frequencies of exercise may be more effective in improving mental health than others, according to a new large-scale study.

The exercise habits of over 1.2 million adults in the United States were examined as part of the research, and published in The Lancet Psychiatry. The researchers analysed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2011 and 2015. They then compared the number of days of bad self-reported mental health between individuals who exercised and those who did not, and examined the effects of exercise type, duration, frequency, and intensity using regression methods adjusted for potential confounders. 

All exercise types were associated with a lower mental health burden. The largest associations were seen for popular team sports as well as for individuals who exercised for between 30 minutes and 60 minutes per session, three to five times per week. Extreme ranges of more than 23 times per month, or longer than 90 minutes per session, were associated with worse mental health. 

The authors said specific types, durations, and frequencies of exercise might be more effective clinical targets than others for reducing mental health burden, and merit further study.