…Thought this may be informative and possibly beneficial … 1.2 million-person study shows how much exercise you need to benefit mental health

…Thought this may be informative and possibly beneficial … 1.2 million-person study shows how much exercise you need to benefit mental health



It’s no secret that exercise is beneficial for your physical and mental health. Less clear, however, is how much exercise it takes to achieve meaningful benefits. Increasingly, we’re seeing that less is more when it comes to exercise, provided it’s done correctly and at high enough intensity.

The latest research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, seems to confirm this, finding that exercise three to five days a week for 45 minutes is the “sweet spot” that leads to the greatest mental health gains.1 Going beyond this and exercising for more than five days a week or for more than 90 minutes per session was actually linked to worse mental health.

The Exercise ‘Sweet Spot’ to Better Mental Health … In a large study involving 1.2 million U.S. adults, participants reported their activity levels for one month along with rating their mental well-being. On average, people reported 3.5 days of “not good” mental health during the month, but among those who exercised, that number dropped to two.

All types of exercise improved mental health, including that from housework, lawn mowing, child care and fishing, but three stood out above the rest in terms of offering the greatest mental health gains: team sports, cycling and aerobic and gym activities. Team sports may have earned top ranking because they offer social connections on top of exercise, further boosting mental health and resilience.

“In a large U.S. sample, physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden in the past month. More exercise was not always better,” researchers wrote, noting again that, “The largest associations [between exercise and mental well-being] were seen for … durations of 45 min[utes] and frequencies of three to five times per week.”2

Those with existing mental health issues, namely depression, also saw greater gains from exercise. While those who did not exercise experienced 11 days of poor mental health a month, on average, those who did exercise cut that number to seven days. The researchers were also sure to point out that exercising too much could backfire.

Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, told BBC News, "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."3

Why Exercise Can Boost Your Mental Well-Being  ….Exercise makes you feel good, both in the short and long term. During and after exercise, a neurotransmitter called anandamide is produced in your brain. There’s a reason why this word is a derivative of the Sanskrit word “bliss” — it blocks feelings of pain and depression, temporarily.

A deficiency of anandamide is associated with anxiety and stress,4 and the neurotransmitter may also be involved in producing the euphoric feelings, or “runner’s high,” many people experience after exercise.5 Exercise also boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress.

Also intriguing, exercise has been found to create new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits excessive neuronal firing, helping to induce a natural state of calm.6 There are indirect benefits of exercise that may also improve your mood, namely:

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