(article from WSJ)

What kind of exercise works best??  Researchers investigated the link between physical activity and mental health found that team sports fared best, followed by cycling, either on the road or stationary.

The study was published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry. The study analyzed the exercise habits and mental health  of 1.2 million U.S. adults.  Researchers rated mental health based on  self-reported answers to survey questions from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It asked respondents how many days in the previous month their mental health was “not good” due to stress, depression or problems with emotions.  

People who played team sports like soccer and basketball reported 22.3% fewer mental health days than those who didn’t exercise.  Those who ran or jogged reported 19% better, while those who did household chores 11.8% better.  Also, it was found that yoga and tai chi had a 22.9% reduction in poor mental health days.

Team sports may have an extra benefit because of the social component, and yoga/tai chi which is often touted as beneficial for mental health.

Researchers also found that those who exercise between 30 -60 minutes had the best mental health, with 45 minutes the optimal duration. More exercise was not always better “over 90 minutes of exercise there isn’t an extra benefit.

Smaller studies have found that exercise improves depression, including randomized controlled studies showing that exercise and antidepressants together work better than antidepressants alone.

Recommendations are to burn roughly 1200 to 1400 calories a week working out.