Walter G. Wasser

Linking Low-Intensity Exercise to Mental Health

In recent findings, researchers have discovered a significant link between low to moderate intensity physical activities and decreased rates of depression. The study, led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), involved an umbrella review of global research aimed at assessing the effectiveness of physical activity as a mental health intervention.

Published in the Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews journal, the study indicates that engaging in physical activity can lower the risk of depression by 23% and anxiety by 26%. Activities such as gardening, golf, and walking, which fall under low to moderate intensity, were particularly effective at reducing depression risks. In contrast, high-intensity exercises did not show a strong correlation with decreased depression rates.

Additionally, the research highlights a substantial decrease in severe mental health conditions, including a 27% reduction in risks associated with psychosis/schizophrenia. These benefits were observed consistently across various demographics, including different genders, ages, and global regions.

Professor Lee Smith, the lead researcher and a public health expert at ARU, emphasized the critical role of physical activity in preventing mental health issues. He stated, “Addressing mental health challenges requires a comprehensive approach that might include medications, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments. Our findings suggest that moderate physical activities not only contribute to better mental health through biochemical reactions but also offer a more accessible option for those who may find high-intensity workouts too daunting.”

The study underscores the importance of personalized exercise recommendations to cater to individual responses to different exercise intensities. Highlighting the accessibility and benefits of low to moderate intensity exercises, this research points towards practical, achievable changes that individuals can incorporate into their daily lives to enhance their mental well-being.

Reference: Rahmati, M., Lee, S., Yon, D.K., et al. (2024). Physical activity and prevention of mental health complications: An umbrella review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 160, 105641.
About the Author
The author is a specialist in nephrology and internal medicine and lives with his wife and family in Jerusalem.
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