Physical exercise good for mental health but only in your leisure time

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We are always being told that those who indulge in physical exercise regularly are less likely to be depressed so if you have a physically demanding job you may think you are ok but apparently not.

According to researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital in London, for exercise to be effective for mental health it has to take place outside of work in your leisure time.

Apparently those who are in physical jobs are not any more protected against mental health problems like depression and anxiety than those who are sitting in front of a computer all day.

The researchers are referring to the results of a study involving over 40,000 participants from Norway.

Each of the participants was asked how often they took part in light physical exercise and intensive physical exercise during their leisure time, in other words, not whilst they were at work.

They were also asked how physically demanding their job was and answered questions designed to identify any symptoms of depression.

The results showed that those who took part in regular physical exercise outside of work, even light physical activity which is activity that doesn’t make you break out in a sweat or get out of breath, were less likely to suffer from symptoms of depression than the rest.

Those who did not indulge in exercise in their spare time were nearly twice as likely to suffer from symptoms of depression as those who did.

“Our study shows that people who engage in regular leisure-time activity of any intensity are less likely to have symptoms of depression” said lead researcher Dr Samuel Harvey of King’s College London.

“We also found that the context in which activity takes place is vital and that the social benefits associated with exercise, like increased numbers of friends and social support, are more important in understanding how exercise may be linked to improved mental health than any biological markers of fitness.

“This may explain why leisure activity appears to have benefits not seen with physical activity undertaken as part of a working day. It is not just a question of getting your heart rate up. There is something else going on here.”

According to Dr Harvey, physical exercise should be more widely recommended as a treatment for depression and anxiety.

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