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    • One of the authors, Adam Chekroud of Yale, did a pretty fascinating Twitter thread. Highlights:

      'The punchline was clear: amongst over 1.2M people in the USA between 2011-2015, people who exercised had about 40% better mental health than people who didn't exercise, even after we controlled for a whole bunch of things including BMI, physical health, and sociodemographics.'

      'The difference in mental health between exercising and not exercising was much much bigger than things like being obese vs healthy, or being wealthy (>$50k) vs poor (<$15k).'

      'The type of exercise people did seems important too! People doing team sports or cycling had much better mental health than other sports. But even just walking or doing household chores was better than nothing!'

    • As someone who really likes to exercise, it's not at all surprising to me that exercise plays a significant role in mental health. If I'm feeling down, getting outside and getting my heart rate up nearly always makes me feel at least somewhat better.

      I do find it interesting (and maybe surprising?) that it's a bigger factor than other things like physical health and socioeconomic status, and I'm glad that that's the case -- it's far easier to change whether or not you're getting exercise than to change most other things about your life. I'm also curious as to why different forms of exercise would be significantly different from each other in terms of their mental health benefits...I just looked at the Twitter thread, and I didn't see any explanation offered for why that might be. One trend I see is that the types of exercise associated with greater benefits are those that would probably result in a higher heart rate than those with lower benefits.

      One final thing I noted from the Twitter thread was that 45min was the sweet spot for exercise -- people getting that amount of exercise were happier than both those who got more and those who got less. I thought that was very surprising -- I would have guessed that (within reason) happiness would increase with more exercise. I wonder if the time variable is confounded by other, not-controlled-for variables in the study. I don't have any good suggestions as to what the confounding variables would be...just a thought.

    • Jesse, I wondered the same about type of exercise. I didn't think of heart rate. I was wondering if it had to do with it being more social. Cycling and popular sports tend to be group activities, at least around here.

      And duration was fascinating too. It seemed to vary by sport:

    • Good point about the social aspect -- that seems like a more likely explanation than heart rate.

      This is admittedly probably not that relevant to the study as a whole, but looking more closely at the duration graphs, I wonder why winter/water sports have a big spike in mental health burden around 135 minutes. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any good explanations for that.

    • I wondered same. Because you freeze your butt off after that much time in the water or snow? 😳

    • Which comes first?

      Lack of energy, movement, limited activity is a well described symptom of depression.

      I find that exercise is a significant aid in dealing with my own modest, but real, Seasonal Affective disorder, from personal experience. Lack of sunshine in the winter can get me down if I let it, if I don't get outside or to the gym. But I am not entirely certain whether this benefit is from exercise or more sunshine. Maybe both actually. Nor do I think researchers are of uniform opinion either.

      The additional elevation in Vit D levels from being out in the sunshine may play a role in bettter health, as well.

    • One of the caveats of this study is it studied association (people who exercise have better mental health) but not whether exercise caused it (mental health improves via exercise). Other studies seem to have shown causation, but I can imagine a big downward spiral if we feel too bad to exercise so we end up feeling worse.

      Vitamin D is a whole other serious topic. Maybe we need a conversation on just that.

    • I can only discuss my own experience. I walk pretty much every day, four miles or a bit more. It definitely lifts my sense of well-being. But when I truly lift my heart rate, eg bicycling, I feel even better.

      I interpret it as my body "waking up" and being put to work. It appreciates it.

    • That is a really fascinating study. I suspect you're right about the social aspects of popular sports (and cycling?) contributing to the higher reported levels of happiness.

      Out of curiosity, what category of activity is "Missing" supposed to represent?

    • This thread seems to match the perfect tenants of the CAKE vision. The older I get, I love sitting in my chair and being on the computer. Truly a slow death march. I am highly extroverted but I actually do not like large groups and I despise "motorcycle" rallies, large scale (over 5000 people) triathlons, half marathons, etc.

      But, when I was 48-52, I was on a decent $retainer that allowed me to workout probably 6+ hours a day which usually consisted of some combination of 2-3 of biking, running, swimming and Bikram yoga. The yoga ALWAYS kicked my butt but the ending savasana portion was orgasmic. Not literally. Even though that was not specifically listed, I think it throws in it's own unique demographics for physical, mental, maybe *spiritual* and the group dynamic.

      To be honest, and I am not a predator, but I think the reason I kept going back to yoga because I met some really hot gals in the studio and ended up being friends with them. So, bonus points for that extra level of social. 🧞‍♂️

    • Chris MacAskill

      I wondered what "Missing" meant too. I didn't purchase the study to check, mainly because of all the steps to go through, which were numerous, and one of the authors wrote such a good summary on Twitter.

    You've been invited!