Research Implications: Severe Mental Illness Linked With Lower Physical Activity

Research Implications: Severe Mental Illness Linked With Lower Physical Activity

There’s no doubt that mental illness can take a toll on so many aspects of daily life. For many of us, mental illness leads us away from activities we used to love, people we used to spend our time with, projects we used to pursue, and much more. If you’ve struggled with mental illness, you probably know that when symptoms become unmanageable, life can become very challenging. For example, for those with depression, getting out of bed can take more energy than a person feels they have to exert. With other disorders, physical activity in general can be hard to initiate – since physical activity is so important to mental and physical health, problems can escalate from there.

A 2017 study conducted by researchers from the UK sought to discover how those with severe mental illness – in particular, those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder – experience physical activity. Researchers analyzed 69 studies to identify common themes, with 35,682 participants total. The following reflects their findings:

  • Those with severe mental illness spend approximately 476 minutes per day sedentary (which equals to about 8 hours a day)
  • Participants were less likely to meet daily physical requirement guidelines than their healthy counterparts
  • During waking hours, participants were likely to engage in physical activity for 38 minutes a day total
  • Lower physical activity levels were linked with: male gender, being single, unemployment, fewer years of education, higher body mass index, longer illness duration, antidepressant and antipsychotic medication use, lower cardio fitness and schizophrenia

The study entailed participants from a variety of healthcare settings, and results found that the participants who were most active were those in inpatient treatment programs rather than outpatient or part of the general community. While mental illness can make it hard to feel motivated, it’s important that we get moving several times throughout the week, as it can boost our immune system, reduce stress and depressive symptoms by releasing endorphins, improve our cardiovascular health, and much more.

Speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center today about incorporating physical fitness into your daily routine.

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