According to a recent study conducted by Jutta Mata of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, even a short burst of physical activity can turn that frown upside down. Exercise has been shown to be both physically and mentally beneficial. People who engage in regular exercise tend to have fewer infections, lower body-fat percentages, and better psychological health than people who are sedentary. In fact, research has shown that exercise can decrease feelings of anxiety and lower blood pressure. Although there has been abundant research dedicated to the benefits of physical exercise and mental health, few studies have looked at the immediate effects of exercise. Specifically, no study has measured how someone’s mood is influenced in the moments following a burst of physical activity.
Mata wanted to explore how exercise, which also has been shown to protect people from symptoms of depression, would affect the mood of people with a history of major depressive disorder (MDD) and those without after they were exposed to sad mood cues. For the study, Mata enlisted 41 women with MDD and 40 with no history of depression and had some of them engage in 15 minutes of intense physical exercise while some did not. Immediately after, all the participants were exposed to two separate sad mood induction cues. Mata found that the women who exercised had much smaller increases in negative affect than those who did not. In particular, the sedentary women who had a history of MDD had the steepest increase in negative affect.
Mata also found that exercise increased positive affect in the participants prior to exposure to the sad mood cues. And although that increase was not sustained after the mood induction, positive affect remained higher in the women who exercised when compared to those who did not. Mata noted that the results of this study reveal only the exercise/affect effect after one episode, not over extended periods. Additionally, the findings are limited by the fact the participants were selected based on history of MDD; other conditions were not considered. “It will be important in future research to systematically examine psychological and physiological mechanisms that might underlie the effects obtained in this study,” Mata said. These limitations notwithstanding, the results of this research provide support for the psychological benefits of physical exercise, even in small doses.
Mata, J., Hogan, C. L., Joormann, J., Waugh, C. E., Gotlib, I. H. (2012). Acute exercise attenuates negative affect following repeated sad mood inductions in persons who have recovered from depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029881
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.