Posted on Nov 06, 2023, 3 p.m.
Some people don’t put any effort into getting regular physical activity. However, unless you have a disability that keeps you from exercising, none of the excuses matter when it comes to the health benefits that you are missing out on. These benefits go beyond physical health as well, exercise also has a major impact on your mental health. Have you heard of feel-good endorphins?
This study based its work on the Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT), involving 250,000 Trøndelag resident’s health data and compared this data with the data from the Norwegian Prescribed Drug Registry.
“We find that people who are in better shape fill fewer prescriptions for anxiety and depression medications,” says Linda Ernstsen, the senior author of the article and an associate professor from the Department of Public Health and Nursing at NTNU. “Being in better physical shape appears to reduce the need for anxiolytic drugs and antidepressants,” Ernstsen said.
In a previous study using HUNT data, the researchers found that those who were in good physical shape had a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms ten years later. This new study allows the researchers to see what kind of medications the participants were prescribed to them. But it can’t determine whether or not the medications were actually used.
“Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that people who are prescribed medication have more symptoms than those who do not see a doctor,” according to first author Audun Havnen, an associate professor at the Department of Psychology at NTNU.
According to the researchers, being in good shape helps all age groups and both genders, but some people experience greater benefits from exercising and being in good physical shape than others. “We find that men experience a greater effect from exercise than women. The correlations are also less clear for the elderly,” Ernstsen says. However, that does not mean that it is not important for women and the elderly to exercise.
But is it the case that good physical health helps prevent depression and anxiety, or is it that those who suffer with depression and anxiety exercise less and are thus in poorer shape? As to not include anyone who was also experiencing these conditions, anyone who had filled prescriptions for these conditions before enrolling in HUNT as well as for 3 months after was excluded from this analysis at the start of the study.
“We also adjusted for symptoms of anxiety and depression in statistical analyses. To the extent that the figures can be believed, we also feel fairly confident that we started with a relatively anxiety and depression-free cohort in HUNT3,” Ernstsen said.
“The results indicate that you can achieve a protective effect by improving your physical shape from poor to moderate, so any activity is beneficial,” Havnen says.
Norwegian health authorities suggest that there are no shortcuts for those who really don’t put any effort into exercising. You just need to get up and move to get started, there really are no other alternatives. You should become physically active in a way that leaves you breathless and sweaty if you want to make any sort of improvement for at least 150-300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise.
Perhaps the closest to a shortcut that there may be, is for those who are short on time, in this case, aim for 75 minutes of high-intensity training or a combination of moderate-intensity and high-intensity training each week.
“Research reinforces the finding that each minute of physical activity counts,” Ernstsen said.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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