A new study from Indiana University suggests that even meager levels of physical activity can improve the mood of people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia.
This reinforces earlier findings that people with SMI demonstrate low levels of physical activity and supports the consideration of physical activity as a regular part of psychiatric rehabilitation.
“We found a positive association between physical activity level and positive mood when low to moderate levels of physical activity are considered,” said study author Bryan McCormick, associate professor in IU’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies. “Physical activity interventions that require lower levels of exertion might be more conducive to improving transitory mood, or the ups and downs people with SMI experience throughout the day.”
McCormick said physical activity often is advocated in addition to psychiatric treatment for people with SMI because of the significant health concerns common to this population. However, low levels of physical activity are also common to this population and pose a major hurdle. For this study, physical activity is considered most forms of sustained movement, such as house cleaning, gardening, walking for transportation or formal exercise.
“The challenge is how to use naturally motivating activities that people have in their everyday lives to get them out and engaged,” McCormick said.
The least active experiences captured in the study correlated with less positive moods. The study also notes that walking is one of the most frequently advocated forms of physical activity in psychiatric rehabilitation programs. Such programs appear to afford both physiological and psychological benefits.