Psychosocial reasons why exercise leads to good mental health


We all know that exercise is good for our bodies. New research shows that the benefits of exercise go beyond the body and also create good mental health.

Two explanations for the connection

A report in Clinical Psychological Science explores whether certain psychosocial factors may explain the benefits of daily physical activity for adolescents’ mental health. Karin Monshouwer of the Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands and colleagues at Trimbos and VU University Medical Center wanted to examine two explanations for the link between exercise and mental health. The first, the self-image hypothesis, suggests that physical activity has positive effects on body weight and body structure leading to positive feedback and improved self-image. The other hypothesis, the social interaction hypothesis, says that social aspects of physical activity contribute to the positive effects of exercise on mental health.

Group sports and activities made a difference

They found that teens who were physically inactive or who thought they were too fat or too thin were at greater risk for internalizing and externalizing problems. Adolescents who played group sports were at lower risk for these mental health concerns.

May be the psychosocial factors, but also physical benefits

The results imply that certain psychosocial factors (body image and social interaction) may help to explain at least part of the connection between physical activity and mental health. The researchers confirmed though that other factors, such as the physiological effect of exercise are probably also contributing to positive results.

Something to consider in prevention strategies

“We think that these findings are important for policymakers and anyone who works in healthcare or prevention. Our findings indicate that physical activity may be one effective tool for the prevention of mental health problems in adolescence,” explained Monshouwer.

Source: Association for Psychological Science, MedicalNewsToday


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