High or mild levels of physical activity, and exercise performed in leisure time, can help prevent mental disorders, a new study has found.
The study conducted by researchers from Faculty of Sciences for Physical Activity (INEF) and Sport at Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM) in collaboration with the European University (UEM) found that the level of exercise performed in leisure time is inversely related to vulnerability to mental disorders.
The researchers also found that adults in the Community of Madrid who performed high or mild levels of total physical activity (amount of physical activity at work or usual occupation, commuting and leisure time) had higher levels of mental health than those performing low levels of physical activity.
The study population was between 15 and 74 years old. Researchers found that 15 per cent suffered some type of mental disorder and 19.8 per cent were not active enough according to current recommendations.
The aim of the research was to assess the possible link between physical activity and levels of mental health by analysing whether such link changed in terms of physical activity (low, mild, high) and the situation in which was performed (work, commuting, leisure time).
Finally, they also assessed if physical activity was associated to vulnerability to mental disorders.
The researchers used the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire to quantify the physical activity that provide data about intensity, frequency and length of the physical activities performed in different situations (work, commuting and leisure time).
The General Health Questionnaire was used to measure the mental health status, this methodology detects psychological morbidity and possible cases of psychiatric disorders in contexts like primary care or general population.
The study found that people who performed high or mild levels of total physical exercise showed better level of mental health.
Considering only the physical activity performed in leisure time, the risk of suffering mental health pathologies among the “sufficiently active” population (that means, those who perform high or mild levels of exercise) was reduced up to 56 per cent or 54 per cent compared to the “insufficiently active” population, depending on the level of physical activity, mild or high respectively.