Just as we are slowing down from all the activity and excitement of the holiday season and entering the winter months when people often experience a situational mood depression and are tempted to hibernate, the New York Times is talking about research on the minimum amount of physical activity necessary to prevent psychological distress.
More than 19,000 Scottish citizens were included in this study, utilizing Scottish Health Surveys and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). The researchers took into account participants’ differences in age, gender, social economic status, marital status, BMI, long-term illness, and smoking when compiling the results. It is not surprising that they found that daily physical activity was correlated with a lower risk of psychological distress. Activities noted as physical exercise included athletics, walking, gardening, and housework. Although even daily vacuuming and dusting can improve your mental health (and your physical environment), researchers did report less risk of psychological distress for those participating in athletics.
The most surprising result is that mental health benefits were observable with only 20 minutes of physical activity (even housework) per week! That is less than three minutes each day!
What excuses do you have left? Research is showing that a minimal level of physical exertion for a minimal amount of time each week will likely make a positive impact on your mental health. In addition, if you are active for a longer period or with more exertion, the benefits will increase. Take your dog for a walk, do calf raises while you brush your teeth, squeeze your glutes while you prepare dinner, do jumping jacks before you jump in the shower, do crunches on commercial breaks, park at the back of the lot, take the stairs, vacuum more frequently; find ways to increase your activity and improve your mood. Every little bit will help!
This minimum amount of physical activity may improve your mental health without having any impact on your physical health.