Mental health improves with just twenty active minutes per week

Mental health improves with just twenty active minutes per week

Performing as little as twenty minutes of any physical activity, including housework, per week is enough to boost mental health. This conclusion was made as part of a study published on April 10, 2008 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, one of the BMJ Specialist Journals.

While it has been previously shown that regular exercise is beneficial for mental health, few professionals agree on how much or what types of activity are best. Physical activity curtails the risk of a number of serious diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. Additionally, several biological risk factors are lowered by exercise, including glucose intolerance and inflammation, which have been additionally linked to depression and dementia.

In this study a representative sample of almost 20,000 men and women were quizzed about their state of mind and how much physical activity they engaged in, as part of the Scottish Health Survey. Using a validated score system, it was determined that over 3,000 of the participants suffered from stress or anxiety. However, any form of daily physical activity was associated with lower distress, after correcting for other factors, such as age, gender, and the presence of a long term condition.

Beneficial activities were varied, and included housework, gardening, walking, and sports. The strongest effect was seen in subjects participating in sports, who had a 33% lower risk of distress. The results showed that while a minimum twenty minutes improved the mental health of the subject, a higher level of activity indicated a lower chance of psychological distress.

Dose-response relationship between physical activity and mental health: the Scottish Health Survey

M Hamer, E Stamatakis, A Steptoe

Br J Sports Med 2008;0:1-4.


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Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice