MEDLINE Abstracts: Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2002;2(1) 

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Are there psychological benefits of exercise? Read the latest in this collection of recent MEDLINE abstracts.



Effects of Physical Exercise on Anxiety, Depression, and Sensitivity to Stress: A Unifying Theory

Salmon P
Clin Psychol Rev 2001 Feb;21(1):33-61

Until recently, claims for the psychological benefits of physical exercise have tended to precede supportive evidence. Acutely, emotional effects of exercise remain confusing, both positive and negative effects being reported. Results of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies are more consistent in indicating that aerobic exercise training has antidepressant and anxiolytic effects and protects against harmful consequences of stress. Details of each of these effects remain unclear. Antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been demonstrated most clearly in subclinical disorder, and clinical applications remain to be exploited. Cross-sectional studies link exercise habits to protection from harmful effects of stress on physical and mental health, but causality is not clear. Nevertheless, the pattern of evidence suggests the theory that exercise training recruits a process which confers enduring resilience to stress. This view allows the effects of exercise to be understood in terms of existing psychobiological knowledge, and it can thereby provide the theoretical base that is needed to guide future research in this area. Clinically, exercise training continues to offer clinical psychologists a vehicle for nonspecific therapeutic social and psychological processes. It also offers a specific psychological treatment that may be particularly effective for patients for whom more conventional psychological interventions are less acceptable.

Exercise Duration and Mood State: How Much is Enough to Feel Better?

Hansen CJ, Stevens LC, Coast JR
Health Psychol 2001 Jul;20(4):267-75

The effects of exercise duration on mood state were examined. In a repeated-measures design, the Profile of Mood States inventory (D. M. McNair, M. Lorr, & L. F. Droppleman, 1971) was administered before and after 1 quiet resting trial and 3 exercise trials of 10, 20, and 30 min on a bicycle ergometer. Heart rate levels were controlled at 60% of the participant's estimated VO2max level. An overall analysis of variance found improved levels of vigor with reduced levels of confusion, fatigue, and total negative mood. Planned analyses revealed that the improvements in vigor, fatigue, and total mood occurred after 10 min of exercise, with progressive improvements in confusion over 20 min and with no additional improvement over longer periods. These results complement current recommendations, which suggest that to experience positive fitness and health benefits, healthy adults should participate in a total of 30 min of moderate physical exercise daily, accumulated in short bouts throughout the day.

Physical Exercise and Psychological Well-Being: A Population Study in Finland

Hassmen P, Koivula N, Uutela A
Prev Med 2000 Jan;30(1):17-25

Background: Regular physical exercise has been characterized as a positive health behavior having physiological benefits. It may also yield psychological benefits. The purpose of the present study was therefore to explore the association between physical exercise frequency and a number of measures of psychological well-being in a large population-based sample.
Methods: A total of 3403 participants (1856 women and 1547 men) of the Finnish cardiovascular risk factor survey, ranging in age between 25 and 64, completed questionnaires. Besides answering questions concerning their exercise habits and perceived health and fitness, the participants also completed the Beck Depression Inventory, the State-Trait Anger Scale, the Cynical Distrust Scale, and the Sense of Coherence inventory.
Results: The results of this cross-sectional study suggest that individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust, and stress than those exercising less frequently or not at all. Furthermore, regular exercisers perceived their health and fitness to be better than less frequent exercisers did. Finally, those who exercised at least twice a week reported higher levels of sense of coherence and a stronger feeling of social integration than their less frequently exercising counterparts.
Conclusions: The results indicate a consistent association between enhanced psychological well-being, as measured using a variety of psychological inventories, and regular physical exercise.

How are Mood and Exercise Related? Results From the Finnmark Study

Sexton H, Sogaard AJ, Olstad R
Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2001 Jul;36(7):348-53

Background: Recreational exercise and mood have frequently been correlated in population studies. Although it is often assumed that recreational exercise improves mood, this has not been consistently demonstrated in population studies.
Method: The relationship between mood and exercise was studied prospectively in a community sample. A series of synchronous panel models was constructed in two samples (2798 paired observations; sample I = 1219, sample II = 1498) to examine this relationship in the entire population, for women and men separately, for those with sedentary occupations, for those performing physical labour, and for those who initially showed a more dysphoric mood.
Results: Although mood and exercise were correlated, the only directional relationship that could be demonstrated was that recreational exercise had an inconsistently positive effect upon mood in those with sedentary occupations. There was no such relationship between doing physical work and mood. Analyses of those who initially showed higher levels of dysphoria did not uncover any directional relationship between mood and exercise. None of the other subgroups showed any directional effects between mood and recreational exercise, nor did the population as a whole.
Conclusion: The relationship between exercise and mood in this population sample appears to be largely correlational in nature. This result suggests the need to take a cautious view of the role played by exercise in promoting mood in the general population.

Men Gain Additional Psychological Benefits by Adding Exercise to a Weight-Loss Program

Kiernan M, King AC, Stefanick ML, Killen JD
Obes Res 2001 Dec;9(12):770-7

Objective: Adding exercise to a comprehensive weight-loss program might not only attenuate any psychological distress associated with weight-loss attempts but also may provide psychological benefits. This study examined whether a diet-plus-exercise weight-loss program improved psychological outcomes more than a diet-only weight-loss program or an assessment-only control group.
Research Methods And Procedures: This study was part of a larger 1-year randomized weight-loss trial examining the effects of diet and exercise on cardiovascular disease risk factors in 264 overweight adults. Psychological measures specific to weight control (e.g., cognitive restraint, disinhibition, hunger, and body dissatisfaction) as well as traditional measures of psychological distress (e.g., symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress) were obtained at baseline and 1 year.
Results: Men and women in either weight-loss program reported greater restraint, less disinhibition, and less hunger at 1 year than those in no program. Men in the diet-plus-exercise program experienced additional increases in restraint and decreases in hunger than did men in the diet-only program. Women in the diet-plus-exercise program did not experience additional psychological benefits specific to weight control than those in the diet-only program, despite increases in aerobic capacity.
Discussion: The pattern seen for overweight men in the diet-plus-exercise program at 1 year-greater restraint, less disinhibition, and less hunger-is similar to the pattern seen in successful weight maintainers. These results underscore the need for innovative strategies that will enhance and sustain the pattern of psychological benefits specific to weight control associated with successful weight loss, especially for overweight women.

Mood Change Through Physical Exercise in Nine- to Ten-Year-Old Children

Williamson D, Dewey A, Steinberg H
Percept Mot Skills 2001 Aug;93(1):311-6

The present study assessed the effect of two types of physical exercise on the self reported mood of 64 9 and 10-yr.-old children who responded to a self-report mood meassure after two different types of aerobic exercise of 15 min., and after a 15-min. video. Significant increases in positive mood and significant decreases in negative mood were found after each exercise treatment; however, positive mood decreased and negative mood increased following the video treatment. Interestingly, no significant difference in mean mood scores was found between the two exercise treatments. These data suggest that short bouts of physical exercise have psychological benefits for children.

The Benefits of Exercise in Geriatric Women

George BJ, Goldberg N
Am J Geriatr Cardiol 2001 Sep-Oct;10(5):260-3

Women 65 years of age and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. As women age, physical inactivity is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. There is also a loss of both physiologic and psychological capabilities that contributes to an overall reduction in function and independent living. Regular physical activity in geriatric women has been shown to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and all-cause mortality. Further research needs to be done to evaluate the role of regular physical activity in the management of diabetes and hyperlipidemia.

Alterations in Selected Measures of Mood With a Single Bout of Dynamic Taekwondo Exercise in College-Age Students

Toskovic NN
Percept Mot Skills 2001 Jun;92(3 Pt 2):1031-8

This study was designed to investigate and to compare the acute alterations in selected measures of mood profile in novice Taekwondo practitioners while evaluating whether dynamic Taekwondo practice was an appropriate exercise modality for enhancing six psychological state dimensions: Vigor, Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Fatigue, and Confusion. 20 male and female college-age students enrolled in Taekwondo activity class and an additional 20 students enrolled in the lecture-con trol class (ages 18 to 21 years) completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) inven tory prior to and immediately following one 75-min. session of dynamic Taekwondo or lecture. To examine the exercise effect, a series of 2 x 2 analysis of covariance were performed on mean posttest scores, using pretest scores as the covariate. Analysis indicated that Taekwondo participants reported a significant improvement (p<.007) with respect to the control group in scores on Tension, Depression, Anger, Fatigue, Confusion, and Vigor. Also, Total Mood Disturbance significantly improved after the dynamic Taekwondo session. The selected affective benefits of an acute Taekwondo exercise in this study were independent of sex. Unlike the exercising subjects. the control subjects reported no such benefits and, indeed, increased their scores for negative mood states. These results suggest that a dynamic version of Taekwondo achieves the necessary activity parameters that begin to induce positive mood state changes and that extensive Taekwondo skill is not necessary to elicit some beneficial change in affect. This study also supports the findings of several earlier studies indicating that acute exercise may elicit positive changes in affective states and that prolonged exercise is not necessary to produce immediate beneficial alterations of mood.

A Prospective Analysis of the Relationship Between Walking and Mood in Sedentary Ethnic Minority Women

Lee RE, Goldberg JH, Sallis JF, Hickmann SA, Castro CM, Chen AH
Women Health 2001;32(4):1-15

Walking for exercise is becoming widely recognized for bestowing health benefits. This study examined the association of walking for exercise and mood in sedentary, ethnic minority women over a five-month period. Ethnic minority women (N = 102) participated in a randomized, controlled trial of a 7-week behaviorally based telephone and mail intervention that promoted the adoption of walking for exercise compared to a non-behavioral minimal intervention. At 2-month post-test and 5-month follow-up, participants reported significant decreases in depressive mood and increases in vigor. Increase in walking over the course of the study was associated with change in vigor. Limited evidence was found to support a relationship between walking for exercise and mood improvement in ethnic-minority women.

Benefits From Aerobic Exercise in Patients With Major Depression: A Pilot Study

Dimeo F, Bauer M, Varahram I, Proest G, Halter U
Br J Sports Med 2001 Apr;35(2):114-7

Background: Several reports indicate that physical activity can reduce the severity of symptoms in depressed patients. Some data suggest that even a single exercise bout may result in a substantial mood improvement.
Objective: To evaluate the short term effects of a training programme on patients with moderate to severe major depression.
Methods: Twelve patients (mean (SD) age 49 (10) years; five men, seven women) with a major depressive episode according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Society of Psychiatry (DSM IV) criteria participated. The mean (SD) duration of the depressive episode was 35 (21) weeks (range 12--96). Training consisted of walking on a treadmill following an interval training pattern and was carried out for 30 minutes a day for 10 days.
Results: At the end of the training programme, there was a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression scores (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression: before, 19.5 (3.3); after, 13 (5.5); p = 0.002. Self assessed intensity of symptoms: before, 23.2 (7); after, 17.7 (8.1); p = 0.006. Values are mean (SD)). Subjective and objective changes in depression scores correlated strongly (r = 0.66, p = 0.01).
Conclusions: Aerobic exercise can produce substantial improvement in mood in patients with major depressive disorders in a short time.

Effect of Yogic Exercises on Physical and Mental Health of Young Fellowship Course Trainees

Ray US, Mukhopadhyaya S, Purkayastha SS, Asnani V, Tomer OS, Prashad R, et al.
Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2001 Jan;45(1):37-53

A study was undertaken to observe any beneficial effect of yogic practices during training period on the young trainees. 54 trainees of 20-25 years age group were divided randomly in two groups i.e. yoga and control group. Yoga group (23 males and 5 females) was administered yogic practices for the first five months of the course while control group (21 males and 5 females) did not perform yogic exercises during this period. From the 6th to 10th month of training both the groups performed the yogic practices. Physiological parameters like heart rate, blood pressure, oral temperature, skin temperature in resting condition, responses to maximal and submaximal exercise, body flexibility were recorded. Psychological parameters like personality, learning, arithmetic and psychomotor ability, mental well being were also recorded. Various parameters were taken before and during the 5th and 10th month of training period. Initially there was relatively higher sympathetic activity in both the groups due to the new work/training environment but gradually it subsided. Later on at the 5th and 10th month, yoga group had relatively lower sympathetic activity than the control group. There was improvement in performance at submaximal level of exercise and in anaerobic threshold in the yoga group. Shoulder, hip, trunk and neck flexibility improved in the yoga group. There was improvement in various psychological parameters like reduction in anxiety and depression and a better mental function after yogic practices.


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