Technology has allowed modern lifestyles to evolve at a breakneck pace over the past decades. This evolution has brought many new tools that have helped improve overall quality of life (re: internet), but many of these changes (re: internet) have also dramatically increased the amount of stress individuals face on a daily basis. The negative consequences of our modern lifestyle are reflected in the increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and other psychological illnesses among the general population.
This week we will look at a growing trend in research examining the link between physical activity and mental health.
One large population-based study recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports looked at the relationship between leisure time physical activity and people’s stress levels and life dissatisfaction. In this study 12,028 men and women 20-79 years of age were given a detailed survey that collected general demographic data, a physical activity profile, and a psychological profile. In order to standardize the data, results were adjusted for the individual’s particular demographics such as age, sex, income, education, and others.
The results of this study demonstrated that with increasing physical activity in leisure time there was a statistically significant decrease in both stress levels and life dissatisfaction. Also, the most pronounced improvements were seen in the people categorized in the low to moderate level of physical activity groups (2-4 hours per week walking).
In conclusion, this was a large study which showed statistical differences between sedentary and physically active people’s quality of life. Also encouraging was the fact that the largest differences were seen in groups that spent low-moderate amounts of time exercising. Therefore, if you or someone you know is under a lot of stress, one of the best things you could do is to start a moderate physical activity program such as walking 2-4 hours per week.