Researchers say exercising for 150 minutes a week can help ease mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
They said people who exercise outdoors get more benefits than people with exercising indoors.
The researchers added that there are mental health benefits to both team sports as well as individual activities.
They cautioned that more isn’t necessarily better, so a moderate amount of exercise is best for most people.
What researchers uncovered
Sports sociology researchers released a study they say demonstrates sports can protect people from serious mental health disorders.
The study assessed levels of anxiety and depression among 682 German recreational athletes under different conditions along with similar amounts of exercise and intensity.
Researchers also gauged factors such as indoor settings versus outdoors, as well as team sports compared to individual sports.
Athletes who met the World Health Organization’s (WHO) exercise guidelines generally experienced better mental health than those that didn’t.
The guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week for healthy adults ages 18 to 64.
“I’ve seen firsthand the incredible benefits that even the slightest amount of regimented exercise can have on anyone,” a researcher told.
“Although medications can play an important role in mental health, as well as pain and disease management, they have their limitations,” he added.
“And with a mounting crisis in prescription drug and opiate usage, we as a clinical community must look at other ways to help patients boost the quality of their lives.”
The effects on mental health
One of the study’s authors said it’s important to recognize that different forms of exercise affect mental health in different ways.
Researchers found people not exercising up to WHO guideline standards reported higher depression scores.
Whether they exercised indoors or outdoors, individually, or with a team.
Authors also found the lowest scores relating to anxiety and depression occurred among indoor team athletes.
“Outdoor exercise is more energizing and more rewarding for most people as long as it is safe and involves green space,” said a researcher.
Don’t overdo exercising
The study also found that people undertaking vigorous-intensity physical activity often had higher levels of depression.
Moderation may be key.