Physical Activity Affects the Mind

Friday, April 13, 2012

The physical benefits of exercise are commonly known, such as weight control, cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance.  However, studies show that although exercise is a physical activity, it has an effect on our mental state as well.  A study conducted at the University of Haifa International School found that exercise reduces depression and burnout rates.  The study analyzed 1,632 Israeli workers through questionnaires and follow up appointments over the course of nine years.  The workers were divided into four groups who did varying amounts of exercise, which was defined as any activity that increased heart rate and induced sweating.  The first group did not participate in any physical activity, the second group did between 1.25 hours and 2.5 hours of exercise per week, the third group between 2.5 hours and 4 hours per week, and finally, a fourth group that was physically active for more than 4 hours per week. 

The results showed that depression and burn out rates were the highest among the workers who did not participate in physical activity at all during the week.  Depression is defined as a clinical disorder in which one feels sadness, loss, anger or frustration for an extended period of time.  Burnout is defined as physical, cognitive and emotional exhaustion.  In the groups who participated in physical activity, depression and burnout rates were decreased during the next 3 years.  Mental health benefits were observed after a minimum of 2.5 hours of exercise each week and over 4 hours of exercise per week was the most effective.

We all know that exercise is good for you, and good mental health is just one more benefit.  But if working out for an hour on the treadmill isn’t your thing, not to worry.  There are plenty of non-traditional, creative ways to stay active without even going to the gym.  Here are some suggestions for staying active at UNH:

1. If competition excites you, there are a variety of intramural teams at UNH to be a part of.

2. Many people don’t know that the indoor pool at the field house has free swim hours for students.  Swimming is a great cardiovascular workout.

3.  Go hiking and walking in college woods.

4.  Dancing is a fun way to get your heart rate up.  Campus rec offers zumba classes, along with other fitness classes.  You can check out the schedule.  The key is to do something that you enjoy.  You’re much more likely to consistently do an activity if you’re having fun.

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