Longitudinal study finds lack of fitness linked to increased risk of mental disorders



Cardiorespiratory health and muscle shape could play an important role in common mental disorders, according to a new study published in BMC Medicine. Research indicates that people with low levels of physical fitness are more likely to suffer from anxiety and almost twice as likely to suffer from depression.

“Fitness is an essential marker of physical health, but we know relatively little about its relationship to mental health. If physical fitness is linked to mental health, it reinforces these emerging ideas that we are now seeing about the interrelationship between physical and mental health, ”said study author Aaron Kandola, doctoral student in the division of psychiatry. from University College London.

“We know that physical activity is of great benefit, but we know little about what types of activity and at what intensity are most beneficial for mental health. For example, if we know that muscle fitness is associated with good mental health, we know that improving muscle shape involves constant resistance training and gradually increasing intensity several times a week over the course of a few weeks.

Previous studies have shown that people who exercise more are less likely to suffer from mental illnesses, but most studies rely on people self-reporting their activity level, which may be less reliable than those who exercise more. objective measures.

“Physical activity is a complex behavior to measure or interpret. Fitness is a biological trait and fairly straightforward to objectively measure with testing and interpret the result, ”Kandola said.

For their new study, the researchers analyzed data from 152,978 people aged 40 to 69 who participated in the UK Biobank study. Their basic aerobic fitness at the start of the study period was tested using a stationary bike with increasing resistance, while their muscle shape was measured with a grip strength test. Participants also completed a questionnaire measuring symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Seven years later, participants again performed assessments for symptoms of depression and anxiety, and researchers found that good aerobic and muscle shape at the start of the study was associated with better mental health seven years later. later.

People with the lowest combined aerobic and muscle fitness had a 98% higher risk of depression, a 60% higher risk of anxiety, and an 81% higher risk of having any of the mental health disorders. currents, compared to those with high overall physical condition.

“Maintaining good physical shape is important for physical and mental health. Try to combine different activities in a routine to keep several aspects of fitness at a good level ie resistance and cardio exercises to maintain muscle and aerobic fitness levels, ”Kandola told PsyPost.

“The real danger is poor physical shape – people in poor physical shape had the worst mental health outcomes in our study. People with poor physical fitness should start slowly, keep the exercises simple, build up over time, not rush into intense aerobic or resistance training programs.

The researchers took into account potential confounders initially, such as diet, socioeconomic status, chronic illnesses, and symptoms of mental illness. But as with any study, the new research has some limitations.

“Our study was observational, we looked at people’s physical fitness and mental health over time – but we didn’t change anything experimentally ourselves. It is important that trials use this evidence to clearly demonstrate cause and effect. There are many trials showing that exercise is good for symptoms of depression and anxiety, but they usually don’t focus specifically on improving fitness, ”Kandola explained.

The study, “Individual and Combined Associations of Cardiorespiratory Form and Grip Strength with Common Mental Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study in the British Biobank”, was authored by Aaron A. Kandola, David PJ Osborn, Brendon Stubbs , Karmel W. Choi and Joseph F. Hayes.

(Image by Talip Özer from Pixabay)



Comments are closed.