Objectives: Regular physical activity is thought to be associated with better mental health, although there is lack of consensus regarding the optimal amount and type of activity to achieve these benefits.
We examined the association between mental health and physical activity behaviours among a representative sample of men and women from the Scottish Health Surveys. Self reported physical activity was measured and participants were 19,842 men and women. We calculated risk estimates per category of physical activity sessions per week.
- Psychological distress was evident in 3200 (16%) of the participants.
- Any form of daily physical activity was associated with a lower risk of psychological distress.
- There were moderate reductions in psychological distress with less frequent activity.
Different types of activities including
- domestic (housework and gardening),
- walking, and
- sports were all independently associated with lower odds of psychological distress, although the strongest effects were observed for sports.
Conclusion: Mental health benefits were observed at a minimal level of at least 20 minutes per week of any physical activity, although there was greater benefit for activity at a higher volume and/or intensity.
Br J Sports Med. Published Online First: 10 April 2008. Relationship between physical activity and mental health: The Scottish Health Survey.
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