By John Phillip - myoptimalhealthresource.blogspot.com
There is little doubt that we have come from a past carved from consumption of nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and free-range animal meats, all necessary components in shaping our present genome, muscular strength and intelligence. Similarly, we are products of regular exercise, as our ancestors required short bursts of intense physical energy to secure food and avoid predators. Remove either of these critical elements and we would look and feel much different today, or would cease to exist altogether.
Researchers reporting in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Clinical Psychological Science have determined that certain psychosocial factors may help to explain the benefits of daily physical activity for adolescents' mental health. The study was designed to determine what actually accounts for the association between exercise and mental health.
Two existing hypothesis for the link between physical activity and mental health include the self-image hypothesis suggesting that physical activity has positive effects on body weight and body structure, leading to positive feedback from peers and improved self-image, ultimately improving mental health. The social interaction hypothesis posits that it's the social aspects of physical activity, including social relationships and mutual support among team members that contribute to the positive effects of exercise on mental health.
To conduct the study, researchers examined over 7,000 Dutch students, aged 11 to 16. The participants completed validated surveys designed to assess their physical activity, mental health problems, body weight perception, and participation in organized sports. The researchers also gathered data on age, gender, and socioeconomic status, as well as if they lived at home with their parents or were from an urban area.
The study team found that those individuals who were physically inactive or perceived themselves as being overly fat or thin were at the greatest risk for internalizing self-image problems, and displayed a higher degree of depression and anxiety. These individuals were also much more likely to be aggressive and prone to substance abuse. Participants who were involved in organized sports and exercised regularly were at much lower risk for mental health problems.
The study leaders conclude "These results suggest that certain psychosocial factors, body image and social interaction, may help to explain at least part of the connection between physical activity and mental health... our findings indicate that physical activity may be one effective tool for the prevention of mental health problems in adolescence." Regular physical activity is just as important as consuming a natural, predominately plant-based diet to prevent chronic disease and ensure lifelong mental health.