Moderate exercise has positive effect on mental health, study says

The researchers compared the number of days of bad self-reported mental health between individuals who exercised and those who did not

"Our finding that team sports are associated with the lowest mental health burden may indicate that social activities promote resilience and reduce depression by reducing social withdrawal and isolation, giving social sports an edge over other kinds". The researchers from Yale University and the University of Oxford took a look at 1.2 million Americans in the study, which looked to prove the link between exercise and mental wellness.

However, the study suggested that overworking oneself in exercises would lead to worse mental health.

According to a new large-scale US study, people who do not exercise get more days of poor mental health a month compared to the people who do.

Exercise is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

After adjusting for factors such as income, marital status, race, age, BMI, previous diagnosis of depression, education level, and employment status the average number of days reported as being of poor mental health was 3.4 in 30 days, with participants who exercised reporting 3.4 fewer days of poor mental health; and the largest decrease in numbers of poor mental health days was seen among participants with previous depression diagnosis.

"Certainly, the results suggest that exercising every day is associated with worse mental health". For those who were physically active, this reduced to only two days.

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But, do not hurry to go to the gym just yet because if you work out too much, you will get the opposite effect.

How often and for how long people were active was also important. In that group, people who exercised had seven days of poor mental health a month compared to 11 days for those who didn't exercise. Exercising on more than 23 days a month and in sessions lasting 90 minutes or more were actually associated with worse mental health.

For people who had been previously diagnosed with depression, the positive impact of exercise was found to be even broader. It is based on self-reporting, which is not always accurate, and there is no way of measuring physical activity.

The Lancet Psychiatry journal said that exercising for 45 minutes three to five times a week was associated with the biggest benefits.

"However, the nature of the study means it's hard to say more than that with any real certainty", he said.

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