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Exercise Is Good For Our Mental Health, But More Isn't Always Better

woman exercising

Maintaining a regular exercise routine is beneficial in so many ways. It increases our strength, helps us maintain a healthy weight, and does so many amazing things for our bodies and minds! Cardio exercise has been shown to drastically improve our mental health, too. But too much of a good thing can actually have the opposite effect. According to a new study, people who exercised too much had worse mental health than those who exercised for smaller amounts of time everyday. Researchers were also able to figure out the perfect amount of time to spend exercising everyday, to reap the most benefits for your mind.

Researchers at Yale University studied data from 1.2 million people in 50 states. The people whose data was analyzed had completed a Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System survey in 2011, 2013, and 2015. This survey includes information about lifestyle, mental health, and physical health. It should be noted that depression is the only mental health disorder the survey takes into account.

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The results of the survey showed participants averaged 3.4 poor mental health days every month. People who exercised had approximately one and a half fewer poor mental health days than those who didn't exercise. The data also showed that exercising for 45 minutes three to five days a week had the most benefit on mental health. Additionally, team sports, cycling, and aerobic and gym exercises showed the biggest decreases in mental health issues. People who played team sports reported a decrease of 22.3%, cycling reduced poor mental health days by 21.6%, and aerobics improved mental health by 20.1%.

group women yoga
Credit: iStock / fizkes

People who exercised for 30-60 minutes a day showed the most improvement with their mental health. Interestingly enough, people who exercised for three or more hours a day had worse mental health than people who didn't exercise at all! Researchers believe that people who exercise too much may show obsessive behavior characteristics, and are at risk of developing other mental health issues, like eating disorders or an actual addiction to exercise.

So the good news is: you don't have to exercise for too long to reap some of the amazing benefits. 30-60 minutes a day for three to five days a week is plenty, and anymore than that may be doing you more harm than good.

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