Physical activity and psychological well-being: One aspect that is not thought of immediately when talking about the benefits of exercise is its link with mental health. Putting oneself on the move helps to prevent depression as well as many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases or osteoporosis: “It is an aspect that should not be underestimated and that makes physical activity an important tool both in terms of prevention and for the treatment of depressive states”, adds Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of the Section of Exercise Medicine at Humanitas.
Reporting the benefits of physical activity on all wellbeing, mind and body, is the OMS, the World Health Organization, which recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week, aerobic exercises with light-moderate intensity for adults up to 65 years of age. Today there are new evidence on the close link between physical activity and mental wellbeing comes from an international study attended by the University of New South Wales in Sydney (Australia) and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Regular exercise at any intensity was associated with a reduction in the risk of depression.
The researchers carried out an analysis of data on the levels of physical activity and depressive symptoms of 33,908 adult Norwegians. It was found that 12% of the depression cases could have been prevented if participants had only one hour of physical activity per week. Moreover, those who reported being sedentary were 44% more likely to develop depression than those who had said they were dedicated to physical activity one to two hours a week. Finally, no association with anxiety emerged from the study.
But why can physical activity benefit mental wellbeing?
People who regularly practice physical activity can testify to this: after working out everyone has said or thought “I am tired but I feel better”, remembers the specialist. With exercise, the body releases a series of neurotransmitters, first of all endorphins, which are associated with a feeling of wellbeing and activate brain mechanisms modulated by physical activity. In addition, the individual discovers that he has resources he hasn’t thought of and ones he can use.
In addition to these typical physical activities, there are social aspects of physical activity, which can also be a playful activity, a hobby: “Team sports, going to the gym, joining a group of runners or cyclists are all pretexts for socializing, going out of isolation, simply talking to someone. An opportunity that can be exploited at any age,” concludes Professor Lucini.