Active Life, Better Peace of Mind
As Little as 20 Minutes a Week of Physical Activity Could Make a Difference, Mental Health Study Shows
April 9, 2008 -- Better mental health may be one of the
benefits of exercise and
physical activity, and it may take as little as 20 minutes per week to get that
That news comes from a study of more than 19,000 men and women in Scotland
who completed surveys about their mental health and physical activity.
The surveys, taken between 1995 and 2003, covered a wide range of
activities, including sports, walking, heavy-duty housework,
and gardening. Participants noted how often, and how vigorously, they did those
A total of 3,200 participants had a high level of psychological
People who got as little as 20 minutes per week of any physical activity
were less likely than inactive people to report psychological distress. Taking
part in sports and getting daily physical activity showed the strongest link to
less psychological distress.
Being active can help manage stress, note the
researchers, who included Mark Hamer, PhD, of University College London's
department of epidemiology and public health.
"Although as little as 20 minutes of physical activity might provide
some benefit, those individuals that were physically active every day had the
lowest risks of mental and physical ill health," Hamer tells WebMD in
an email. "Therefore, I'd recommend to stick to current guidelines that
suggest at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity five times per
The study, published in the advance online edition of the British Journal
of Sports Medicine, doesn't show which came first: active lives or less
psychological distress. "The state of depression can make people less
active," Hamer says.
Still, the findings held regardless of age, sex, social class, BMI (body mass index),
long-standing illness, smoking, and other factors.