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Regular exercise best way to improve mental health

Thursday 9th August 2018
A new study has indicated that regular activity boosts mental health, but too much can have the opposite effect.
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Exercising for 45 minutes between three and five times a week does not just improve physical fitness, but can also enhance mental health, a major new study from the US has indicated. 

The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal, focused on the activities of 1.2 million individuals in the US between 2011 and 2015. 

It found that those who carried out regular exercise reported an average of 1.5 fewer "bad days" each month than those who who were less active. This represented a drop from three-and-a-half bad days to two. 

The report also said the most positive activities for mental health were team sports, cycling and aerobics. It stated: "Specific types, durations and frequencies of exercise might be more effective clinical targets than others for reducing mental health burden and merit interventional study."

However, even activities like housework and looking after children were found to be helpful. 

Conversely, the survey also found that exercising more than the prescribed amount did not bring any additional benefits to mental health and very large amounts of exercise could actually have a negative impact. It stated: "More exercise was not always better."

Study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University Adam Chekroud said: "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."

Moreover, the study did not establish a definite causal link between extra exercise and improved mental health. However, professor Chekroud suggested that the social aspect of activities such as team sports could help to bolster mental resilience. 

The findings would support the UK government advice that people should carry out 150 minutes of exercise per week. 

Written by Angela Newbury

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