There is an abundance of research that demonstrates the psychological benefits of physical activity (PA). Regular exercise can improve physical health, which directly impacts mood and well-being. People who are unhealthy and physically dependent on others tend to have higher rates of depression and more negative affect than those who are mobile, independent, and active. Although this has been established in numerous research experiments, few studies have looked at how PA affects well-being and depression in Mexican individuals. The levels of depression among Mexicans are increasing, and thus it is important to identify factors that contribute to and protect from depressive symptoms. In an effort to examine the relationship between PA and depression among Mexicans, Katia Gallegos-Carrillo, of the Research in Epidemiology and Health Services and the Mexican Social Security Institute at the Regional General Hospital in Morelos, Mexico, recently conducted a study that assessed a large sample of Mexican adults from the Health Worker Cohort Study.
Gallegos-Carrillo assessed PA and depressive symptoms at baseline and 6 years and found that the individuals with low PA had the highest levels of depression. Specifically, depression was present in 10.6% of active participants and in 16.5% of inactive participants. Gallegos-Carrillo believes that there could many reasons for this. First, having better physical health could increase self-esteem and decrease depressive symptoms. Second, the act of exercising increases endorphins, which produces a feeling of positive affect. Gallegos-Carrillo notes that changes in symptomology were not assessed throughout the 6-year period, and a closer look at symptom fluctuation could give more insight into the effects of PA. Additionally, the information used in this study was obtained from self-reports, which could reflect a biased perception of symptoms. Regardless of these limitations, Gallegos-Carrillo feels that these results have important clinical implications and should help shape future interventions aimed at increasing PA among Mexican workers. She added, “This intervention could help reduce the enormous social and economic burden of depressive disorders facing Mexico.”
Gallegos-Carrillo, K., Flores, Y. N., Denova-Gutiérrez, E., Méndez-Hernández, P., Dosamantes-Carrasco, L. D., Henao-Morán, S., et al. (2012). Physical activity and reduced risk of depression: Results of a longitudinal study of Mexican adults. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029276
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