People who exercise 25 to 75 hours a week have better mental health, but more than that is associated with poorer mental health, a recent study suggests.
Researchers compared mental health with exercise by analyzing self-reported data from more than 7,600 adults who took part in a US national survey.
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Study of more than 650 workers by researchers at California State University, Sacramento, and The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, reported in The New York Times.
"The largest mental health differences occurred with two to four hours of exercise per week. Beyond four hours, the trend begins to reverse-about 65% of those with poorer mental health exercised more than four hours per week, compared to 55% of adults in better mental health" according to Yeon Soo Kim, MD, a visiting scholar in the departments of biobehavioral sciences and health and behavior studies, and colleagues at Teachers College, Columbia University.
More Exercise Is Not Better
They were surprised to find that after 75 hours of exercise per week, symptoms of depression and anxiety increased sharply. This was true in both men and women, and in people of all ages and different levels of health.
The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, is the first to show an association between too much exercise and poor mental health, according to the researchers.
However, further research is needed to determine whether people who tend to be depressed and anxious are more likely to be more physically active as a way to keep their mental symptoms under control, or whether greater amounts of exercise actually cause symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The researchers also emphasize that their findings support the notion that regular activity may lead to prevention of mental health disorders."
"If physical activity can prevent mental health disorders or improve overall mental health, the public health impact of promoting physical activity could be enormous," according to the study authors.
While the study found an association between high amounts of exercise and worse mental health, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.