Social Indicators Research

, Volume 119, Issue 3, pp 1379–1391 | Cite as

Make Time for Physical Activity or You May Spend More Time Sick!

  • Grace Lordan
  • Debayan Pakrashi


This work estimates the association between various types of physical activities and physical health, mental health and health service utilization. Specifically, we consider participation in housework, manual, walking, sports/exercise and total physical activities to a moderate level. We view this as an important contribution given that governments usually recommend a total level of activity that their citizens should achieve to be healthy, rather than a particular activity per se. Our results suggest that participation in any of these activities predicts a lower probability of poor health roughly to the same level. For mental health, our estimates highlight that those who participate in (and do more of) any activity have better mental health when compared to those who do not. The associations are higher for women. The associations are also higher for manual activities and sports/exercise when compared to other activities. The analysis also reveals some lower utilization of in-patient, out-patient visits and GP services among individuals who are moderately physically active.


Physical activity Mental health Physical health Health service utilization 


  1. Berard, A., Bravo, G., & Gauthier, P. (1997). Meta-analysis of the effectiveness of physical activity for the prevention of bone loss in postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis International, 7, 331–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Biddle, S. J. H. (2002). Emotion, mood and physical activity. In S. J. H. Biddle, K. R. Fox, & S. H. Boutcher (Eds.), Physical activity and psychological well-being (pp. 63–87). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Biddle, S. J. H., & Ekkekakis, P. (2005). Physically active lifestyles and well-being. In F. A. Huppert, B. Keverne, & N. Baylis (Eds.), The science of well-being (pp. 140–168). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bovet, P., et al. (2009). Body-mass index and mortality. The Lancet, 374(9684), 113–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burdette, A. M., & Hill, T. D. (2008). An examination of processes linking perceived neighborhood disorder and obesity. Social Science and Medicine, 67, 38–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carek, P. J., Laibstain, S. E., & Carek, S. M. (2011). Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 41(1), 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Catlin, T. K., Simoes, E. J., & Brownson, R. C. (2003). Environmental and policy factors associated with overweight among adults in Missouri. American Journal of Health Promotion, 17, 249–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cerin, E., Leslie, E., Sugiyama, T., & Owen, N. (2009). Associations of multiple physical activity domains with mental well-being. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2(2), 55–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Edwards, S. D., Ngcobo, H. S., Edwards, D. J., & Palavar, K. (2005). Exploring the relationship between physical activity, psychological well-being and physical self perception in different exercise groups. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, 27(1), 75–90.Google Scholar
  10. Erikssen, G. (2001). Physical fitness and changes in mortality: the survival of the fittest. Sports Medicine, 31, 571–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fogelholm, M., & Kukkonen-Harjula, K. (2000). Does physical activity prevent weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 1(2), 95–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giles-Corti, B., Macintyre, S., Clarkson, J. P., Pikora, T., & Donovan, R. J. (2003). Environmental and Lifestyle Factors Associated With Overweight and Obesity in Perth, Australia. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(1), 93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goldberg, D. (1985). Identifying psychiatric illness among general medical patients. British Medical Journal, 291, 161–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goldberg, D., & Huxley, P. (1980). Mental illness in the community; the pathway to psychiatric care. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  15. Goldberg, D. P., & Williams, P. (1988). A user’s guide to the General Health Questionnaire. Windsor UK: NFER-Nelson.Google Scholar
  16. Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2008). The influences of diet and exercise on mental health through hormesis. Ageing Res Rev, 7, 49–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gregg, E. W., Cauley, J. A., Stone, K. T., Thompson, T. J., Bauer, D. C., Cummings, S. R., et al. (2003). Relationship of changes in physical activity and mortality among older women. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289, 2379–2386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Helmrich, S. P., Ragland, D. R., Leung, R. W., & Paffenbarger, R. S, Jr. (1991). Physical activity and reduced occurrence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The New England Journal of Medicine, 325(3), 147–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Johansson, S., Rosengren, A., Tsipogianni, A., Ulvenstam, G., Wiklund, I., & Wilhelmsen, L. (1988). Physical inactivity as a risk factor for primary and secondary coronary events in Goteborg, Sweden. European Heart Journal, 9(Suppl L), 8–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jonsdottir, I. H., Rodjer, L., Hadzibajramovic, E., Borjesson, M., & Ahlborg, G, Jr. (2010). A prospective study of leisure-time physical activity and mental health in Swedish health care workers and social insurance officers. Preventive Medicine, 51(5), 373–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kohl, H. W. (2001). Physical activity and cardiovascular disease: evidence for a dose response. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(6 Suppl), S472–S483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lakdawalla, D., & Philipson, T. (2007). Labor supply and weight. Journal of Human Resources, 42(1), 85–116.Google Scholar
  23. Lee, I. M. (2003). Physical activity and cancer prevention—data from epidemiologic studies. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(11), 1823–1827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lordan and Pakrashi. (2013). Do all activities ‘weigh’ equally?How different physical activities differ as predictors of weight. LSE Health Working Paper.Google Scholar
  25. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. A., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Manson, J., Nathan, D., Krolewski, A., Stampfer, M., Willett, W., & Hennekens, C. (1992). A prospective study of exercise and incidence of diabetes among US male physicians. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 268, 63–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mata, J., Thompson, R. J., & Gotlib, I. H. (2010). BDNF genotype moderates the relation between physical activity and depressive symptoms. Health Psychology, 29(2), 130–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nakosteen, R. A., Westerlund, O., & Zimmer, M. A. (2005). Health-related disabilities and matching of spouses: analysis of Swedish population data. Journal of Population Economics, 18(3), 491–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Oguma, Y., Sesso, H. D., Paffenberger, R. S., & Lee, I. M. (2002). Physical activity and all cause mortality in women: a review of evidence. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36, 162–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ouellette Kobasa, S. C., Maddi, S. R., Puccetti, M. C., & Zola, M. A. (1985). Effectiveness of hardiness, exercise and social support as resources against illness. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 29(5), 525–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Puterman, E., Lin, J., Blackburn, E., O’Donovan, A., Adler, N., & Epel, E. (2010). The power of exercise: buffering the effect of chronic stress on telomere length. PLoS One, 5(5), 10837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rashad, I. (2007). Cycling: An increasingly untouched source of physical and mental health. NBER Working Paper, No. 12929.Google Scholar
  33. Sallis, J., Saelens, B., Frank, L., Conway, T., Slymen, D., Cain, K., et al. (2009). Neighborhood built environment and income: examining multiple health outcomes. Social Science and Medicine, 68(7), 1285–1293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shephard, R. J., & Futcher, R. (1997). Physical activity and cancer: How may protection be maximized? Critical Reviews in Oncogenesis, 8, 219–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Steenland, K. (1992). Passive smoking and the risk of heart disease. JAMA, 267, 94–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stephens, T. (1988). Physical activity and mental health in the United States and Canada: Evidence from four population surveys. Preventive Medicine, 17(1), 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ströhle, A. (2009). Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. Journal of Neural Transmission, 116(6), 777–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sylvester, B. D., Mack, D. E., Busseri, M. A., Wilson, P. M., & Beauchamp, M. R. (2012). Health-enhancing physical activity, psychological needs satisfaction, and well-being: Is it how often, how long, or how much effort that matters? Mental Health and Physical Activity, 5(2), 141–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Teychenne, M., Ball, K., & Salmon, J. (2008). Physical activity and likelihood of depression in adults: A review. Preventive Medicine, 46(5), 397–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thune, I., Furberg, A.S. (2001). Physical activity and cancer risk: dose–response and cancer, all sites and site-specific. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 33, S530–S550; discussion S609-10.Google Scholar
  41. Wannamethee, S. G., Shaper, A. G., & Walker, M. (1998). Changes in physical activity, mortality, and incidence of coronary heart disease in older men. The Lancet, 351(9116), 1603–1608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Warburton, D. E., Gledhill, N., & Quinney, A. (2001). The effects of changes in musculoskeletal fitness on health. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26(2), 161–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wareham, N., Van Sluijs, E. M., & Ekelund, U. (2005). Physical activity and obesity prevention: a review of the current evidence. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 64(2), 229–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wei, M., Gibbons, L. W., Kampert, J. B., Nichaman, M. Z., & Blair, S. N. (2000). Low cardiorespiratory fitness and physical inactivity in men with type 2 diabetes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 132, 605–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilson, S. E. (2002). The health capital of families: an investigation of the inter-spousal correlation in health status. Social Science Medicine, 55(7), 1157–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wright, K. A., Everson-Hock, E. S., & Taylor, A. H. (2009). The effects of physical activity on physical and mental health among individuals with bipolar disorder: A systematic review. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2(2), 86–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social PolicyLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK
  2. 2.School of EconomicsUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations