How does exercise affect mental health?

Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, reduce stress and anxiety, and boast self-esteem immediately after one workout. Here are studies analyzing the line between exercise and mental health. 
  • Physical activity protects against depression; athletic activity in college reduces the risk of psychiatric distress and depression for women in post-college years. In this 10-year study of 3,940 female college alumnae, researchers found that regular exercise was associated with fewer instances of self-reported and doctor-diagnosed depression. The type of exercise that made a difference in this research was termed “college athletic activity.”
  • Physical activity protects against depression; suicide attempters are half as likely to report involvement in physical activity. This analysis of 4,728 people, ages 13 to 34 years, who attempted suicide reported little or no physical activity in their life the month prior to the suicide attempt. Researchers believe this strongly links exercise with more stable mental health.
  • Habitual physical activity reduces depressive symptoms and improves emotional well-being. This comprehensive research monitored 5,451 men and 1,277 women, ages 20 to 88 years, and discovered a correlation between cardio-respiratory fitness and reduced depression and enhanced emotional well-being. The subjects engaged in regular walking, jogging, and running for their exercise.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.