MAY 15, 2024 2:00 PM PDT

Low Intensity Exercise May Improve Mental Health

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

A new umbrella review published in Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews suggests that regularly participating in exercise may improve mental health complications, and low to moderate intensity exercise specifically may help reduce rates of depression.

Seven meta-analyses were included in the study, all of which focused on the relationship between physical activity and mental health. Previous studies have noted an association between physical activity and the alleviation of mental health symptoms. This study sought to further examine the impact of physical activity on mental health complications such as depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, and psychosis.

The results of the umbrella review showed that participating in higher levels of physical activity reduced the risk of depression by 23% and reduced the risk of anxiety by 26%. Physical activity also reduced the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia by 27%. Interestingly, a particularly strong association was seen between low- to moderate-intensity physical activity and a reduced risk of depression. Low- to moderate-intensity physical activities can include light exercise such as walking, playing golf, or gardening. The results of the study were consistent across gender, age, and location.

The authors of the study noted that these results could help shape more precise exercise guidelines for the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression. While exercise is often thought of as a way to improve physical health, it also appears to play a vital role in maintaining and improving mental health. Furthermore, these results suggest that low- and moderate-intensity exercise may be more beneficial for certain individuals than high-intensity exercise. Most importantly, the results highlight the need for exercise programs that are tailored to individuals; low- and moderate-intensity exercise may be more appropriate for those struggling with mental health, while higher intensity exercise may be more appropriate for those trying to improve their heart health or overall physical fitness.

Sources: Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews, Science Daily

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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