Everyone knows that regular exercise keeps the body healthy. Research shows that exercise can keep the mind healthy, too. A new study from the Faculty of Sciences for Physical Activity and Sport at Universidad Politéncia de Madrid investigated how individuals’ physical activity levels impact mental health. The researchers found that people who exercise frequently have higher levels of mental health. The results could inform policies and strategies to address growing public health concerns surrounding mental health.
The researchers evaluated a population sample of people from Madrid, aged 15 to 74 years. Of the sample, 15 percent had some type of mental health disorder and 19.8 percent did not meet the recommended level of physical activity. To determine whether activity levels affected mental health, the researchers administered two questionnaires. The Global Physical Activity Questionnaire quantified participants’ physical activity by asking about the intensity, frequency, and duration of activity, as well as the setting in which the activity was performed. They used the General Health Questionnaire to assess participants’ overall mental health.
Participants who were more active had better mental health than less active participants. Physical activity performed during leisure time, as opposed to at work or while commuting, was associated with improved mental health. Participants with a “high” or “mild” levels of activity had better levels of mental health than those with “low” levels of activity. The study also revealed being “sufficiently active” was linked to a reduction of over 50 percent in vulnerability to mental health disorders.
In short, exercising in one’s free time can improve mental health. Physical activity offers a proactive way for individuals to manage their mental and physical health. Healthcare specialists can consider incorporating physical activity into treatment plans for patients struggling with mental health issues.
This research is published in the journal Revista de Psichología del Deporte (Sports Psychology Magazine).
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