Exercise and Mental Health
- 558 Downloads
Physical exercise is increasingly being advocated as a means to maintain and enhance good mental health. In general, findings from research indicate that exercise is associated with improvements in mental health including mood state and self-esteem, although a causal link has not been established. Research on acute exercise indicates that 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic activity results in improvements in state anxiety and mood that persist for several hours. These transitory changes in mood occur in both individuals with normal or elevated levels of anxiety, but appear to be limited to aerobic forms of exercise.
In the case of long term exercise programmes, improvements in the mental health of ‘normal’ individuals are either modest in magnitude or do not occur, whereas the changes for those with elevated anxiety or depression are more pronounced. Evidence from studies involving clinical samples indicates that the psychological benefits associated with exercise are comparable to gains found with standard forms of psychotherapy. Hence, for healthy individuals the principal psychological benefit of exercise may be that of prevention, whereas in those suffering from mild to moderate emotional illness exercise may function as a means of treatment.
Exercise may also result in detrimental changes in mental health. Some individuals can become overly dependent on physical activity and exercise to an excessive degree. This abuse of exercise can result in disturbances in mood and worsened physical health. In the case of athletes the intense training, or overtraining, necessary for endurance sports consistently results in increased mood disturbance. Extreme cases of overtraining may result in the staleness syndrome; a condition associated with deteriorating performance and behavioural disturbances including clinical depression.
Exercise can result in either beneficial or detrimental changes in mental health, and the outcome appears to be largely dependent on the ‘dosage’ employed. Although recent studies have provided promising findings regarding the efficacy of exercise in clinical samples, additional research is clearly needed. The influence of various programmatic aspects of exercise (i.e., mode, duration, frequency, intensity, setting) on changes in mental health have not been systematically investigated, and the proposed mechanisms by which exercise acts to affect mental health remain largely unsubstantiated.
KeywordsMental Health State Anxiety Acute Exercise Mood Disturbance Positive Mental Health
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Barlow DH. Anxiety and its disorders: the nature and treatment of anxiety and panic, pp. 131–135, Guilford Press. New York, 1988Google Scholar
- Greist JH. Exercise intervention with depressed outpatients. In Morgan & Goldston (Eds) exercise and mental health, Hemisphere, Washington, DC, 1987Google Scholar
- Greist JH, Klein MH, Eischens RR, Faris J, Gurman AS, et al. Running as treatment for depression. Comparative Psychiatry 21: 611–619, 1979Google Scholar
- Guttmann MC, Pollock ML, Foster C, Schmidt D. Training stress in Olympic speed skaters: a psychological perspective. Physician and Sportsmedicine 12: 45–57, 1984Google Scholar
- Hannum SM, Kasch FW. Acute post exercise blood pressure response of hypertensive and normotensive men. Scandinavian Journal of Sports Science 3: 11–15, 1981Google Scholar
- Koltyn K, Raglin JS, O’Connor PJ, Morgan WP. State anxiety and blood pressure following weight training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 20: 595, 1988Google Scholar
- Kostrubala T. Running and psychotherapy. In Fuenning et al. (Eds) Physical fitness and mental health: proceedings of the research seminar on physical fitness and mental health, University of Nebraska Foundation, Lincoln, NE, 1981Google Scholar
- Little JC. Neurotic illness in fitness fanatics. Psychiatric Annals 9: 49–56, 1969Google Scholar
- Martinsen EW. Exercise and medication in the psychiatric patient. In Morgan & Goldston (Eds), Exercise and mental health, Hemisphere, Washington, DC, 1987Google Scholar
- Martinsen EW. Benefits of exercise for the treatment of depression Sports Medicine 9: 380–389, 1990Google Scholar
- Morgan WP. Anxiety reduction following acute physical activity. Psychiatric Annals 9: 36–45, 1979Google Scholar
- Morgan WP. Physical activity and mental health. In Echert & Montoye (Eds) Exercise and health, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 1984Google Scholar
- Morgan WP, Goldston SE. Exercise and mental health, Hemisphere, Washington DC, 1987Google Scholar
- Morgan WP, Horstman DH, Cymerman A, Stokes J. Exercise as a relaxation technique. Primary Cardiology 6: 48–57, 1980Google Scholar
- Morgan WP, O’Connor PJ. Exercise and mental health. In Dishman (Ed.) Exercise adherence: its impact on public health, pp. 91–121, Human Kinetics, Champaign IL, 1988Google Scholar
- Morgan WP, O’Connor PJ. Psychological effects of exercise and sports. In Ryan & Allman (Eds) Sports medicine, pp. 671–689, Academic Press, New York, 1989Google Scholar
- Morgan WP, O’Connor PJ, Koltyn KF. Psychological benefits of physical activity through the life span: methodological issues. Proceedings of the World Congress on Movement and Sport, Jyvaskyla, Finland, in press, 1990Google Scholar
- Raglin JS, Morgan WP. Influence of vigorous exercise on mood state. Behaviour Therapist 8: 179–183, 1985Google Scholar
- Raglin JS, Morgan WP, Luchsinger A. Mood and self-motivation in successful and unsuccessful female rowers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, in press, 1990Google Scholar
- Ryan AJ. Overtraining of athletes: a round table. Physician and Sportsmedicine 11: 93–110, 1983Google Scholar
- Sonstroem RJ. Exercise and self-esteem. In Terjung (Ed.) Exercise and sports sciences reviews 12, pp. 123–155, Collamore Press, Lexington, MA, 1984Google Scholar
- Spielberger CD, Gorsuch RL, Luschene R. State-trait anxiety inventory manual, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, 1970Google Scholar