Monday, January 7, 2013

The Benefits of Exercise

The Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Barring medical contraindications, regular exercise, especially aerobic type is beneficial for psychological and physical health. Across a variety of populations, research suggests aerobic exercise has ameliorative properties for depressive symptoms in mild to moderate depression and reduce symptoms of anxiety (Aan het Rot, Collins, & Fitterling, 2009; Johnson et al., 2008; Nabkasorn, 2005; Ströhle, 2009). Some types of exercise improve cognition and psychological well-being, and reduces mood swings in older adults (Cruise et al., 2010).

Although the positive effects of anaerobic exercise may exist, a significant effect on depressive symptoms was not apparent in some research and the greatest benefit in improving mood was gained from aerobic exercise (Balkin, Tietjen-Smith, Caldwell, & Shen, 2007; Eriksson & Gard, 2011), although other research negates these findings (Bass, Enochs, & DiBrezzo, 2002).

Benefits to the Physical Body

Consistent physical activity is one of the best predictors of health, and is especially beneficial in reducing risk factors for cardiovascular health (Agarwal, 2012). Agarwal (2012) claims it is the easiest and least expensive method of maintaining a healthy heart. Furthermore, regular exercise along with diet interventions may improve metabolic disorders (Morita-Suzuki, Fujioka, Mitsuoka, Tashiro, & Harada, 2012). In menopausal women, aerobic exercise helps reduce inflammation during weight loss and increases bone mineral density (Silverman, Nicklas, & Ryan, 2009).

Gender Dependent Benefits

In patients with chronic heart failure there was no apparent difference in benefit between men and women (Antunes-Correa et al., 2009). Although the perceptions of exercise, and well as the reasons for participating in physical activity vary between men and women (Marks, Murray, Evans, & Estacio, 2011), I found no research that claimed the benefits of exercise were gender dependent.

Differences do exist in participation among various populations. Women, minorities, and individuals from lower socioeconomic status participate less frequently in physical activity than men (Marks et al., 2011). Attention is needed to identify the reasoning for the disparity in participation for these populations. Additionally, it would be interesting to determine how the lowered participation effects these groups and whether an increase in exercise does, in fact, increase the benefits of reducing disease-related outcomes. Comparisons made between one population and another may not be appropriate.

Advising individuals about the variety of alternative exercise may be important to increase participation. For example, individuals who have little interest in aerobic exercise may find a reasonable alternative in yoga, since it has been proven to be as effective or more so than exercise in reducing a variety of disease-related outcomes (Ross & Thomas, 2010).


Aan het Rot, M., Collins, K. A., & Fitterling, H. L. (2009). Physical exercise and depression. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine: A Journal of Translational and Personalized Medicine, 76(2), 204-214. doi: 10.1002/msj.20094

Agarwal, S. K. (2012). Cardiovascular benefits of exercise. International Journal of General Medicine, 5, 541-545. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S30113

Antunes-Correa, L. M., Melo, R. C., Nobre, T. S., Ueno, L. M., Franco, F. G., Braga, A. M., ... Negrao, C. E. (2009). Impact of gender on benefits of exercise training on sympathetic nerve activity and muscle blood flow in heart failure. European Journal of Heart Failure, 12(1), 58-65. doi: 10.1093/eurjhf/hfp168

Balkin, R. S., Tietjen-Smith, T., Caldwell, C., & Shen, Y. (2007). The utilization of exercise to decrease depressive symptoms in young adult women. Adultspan: Theory, Research, & Practice, 6(1), 30-35. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-0029.2007.tb00027.x

Bass, M. A., Enochs, W. K., & DiBrezzo, R. (2002). Comparison Of Two Exercise Programs On General Well-Being Of College Students [Abstract]. Psychological Reports, 91(8), 1195. doi: 10.2466/PR0.91.8.1195-1201

Cruise, K. E., Bucks, R. S., Loftus, A. M., Newton, R. U., Pegoraro, R., & Thomas, M. G. (2010). Exercise and Parkinson’s: Benefits for cognition and quality of life. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2010.01338.x

Eriksson, S., & Gard, G. (2011). Physical exercise and depression. Physical Therapy Reviews, 16(4), 261-268. doi: 10.1179/1743288X11Y.0000000026

Johnson, C. C., Murray, D. M., Elder, J. P., Jobe, J. B., Dunn, A. L., Kubik, M., ... Schachter, K. (2008). Depressive Symptoms and Physical Activity in Adolescent Girls. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(5), 818-826. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181632d49

Nabkasorn, C. (2005). Effects of physical exercise on depression, neuroendocrine stress hormones and physiological fitness in adolescent females with depressive symptoms. The European Journal of Public Health, 16(2), 179-184. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cki159

Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. Journal Of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 3-12. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0044

Silverman, N. E., Nicklas, B. J., & Ryan, A. S. (2009). Addition of Aerobic Exercise to a Weight Loss Program Increases BMD, with an Associated Reduction in Inflammation in Overweight Postmenopausal Women. Calcified Tissue International, 84(4), 257-265. doi: 10.1007/s00223-009-9232-z

Ströhle, A. (2009). Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. Journal of Neural Transmission, 116(6), 777-784. doi: 10.1007/s00702-008-0092-x

Marks, D. F., Murray, M., Evans, B., & Estacio, E. V. (2011). Health Psychology: Theory, Research, and Practice (3rd ed.). London: Sage.

Morita-Suzuki, S., Fujioka, Y., Mitsuoka, H., Tashiro, M., & Harada, M. (2012). Adding Diet and Exercise Counseling to the Health Promotion Plan Alleviates Anthropometric and Metabolic Complications in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrition and Metabolic Insights 2012:5 49–58, 5, 49-58. doi: 10.4137/NMI.S9683

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