Regular exercise can help improve mental health - but don’t go overboard

Peechaya Burroughs for TIME

According to Time, the study "analyzed data provided by more than 1.2 million US adults who responded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey between 2011 and 2015".

People who did no extra physical activity said they felt low an average of 3.4 days of the month, while those who exercised regularly reported just two days, a reduction of 43 per cent.

The scientists, led by experts at Yale University in the United States and Oxford University, found that exercising for 45 minutes three to five times a week was associated with the biggest benefits.

Keeping active is linked to fewer days of experiencing poor mental health a month, researchers have found, but only up to a point.

Meanwhile, exercising for more than three hours a day was associated with worse mental health than not exercising at all.

Those who did the most exercise - more than five times a week or more than three hours a day - actually had worse mental health than those who did nothing at all.

"It's hard to speculate what is driving the effect".

Researchers from the universities of Yale and Oxford have found a moderate level of exercise improves mental health, while excessive workouts can have a negative effect.

If you have a mental health problem there are bigger benefits, because stress can be a trigger for other conditions.

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While some evidence suggests that exercise may improve mental health, the relationship could go both ways - for example, inactivity could be a symptom of and contributor to poor mental health, and being active could be a sign of or contribute to resilience.

'Exercise is associated with a lower mental health burden across people no matter their age, race, gender, household income and education level.

Dr Adam Chekroud from Yale University said: "Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide".

"Excitingly, the specifics of the regime, like the type, duration, and frequency, played an important role in this association", Dr Chekroud said of the link between physical activity and mental health.

The scientists found that team sports reduced the time spent in poor mental health by 22 per cent, cycling by 21 per cent, and going to the gym by 20 per cent.

Researchers hope to use the information to personalize exercise recommendations.

Team sports could be good for improving mental health because they reduce social withdrawal and isolation, he continued.

"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", Chekroud said in a journal news release.

"One of the nice things is the accessibility of this", he said. Follow INSIDER on Facebook.

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