According to research undertaken at Yale and Oxford which compared the number of days of bad self-reported mental health between individuals who exercised and those who did not, exercise came out on top.
The study found that individuals who exercised had 43.2% fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than individuals who did not exercise. The scientists found that those who exercised regularly tended to feel bad for 35 days a year, while non-active participants felt bad for an average 18 days more.
Data from over 1.2 million Americans was analysed in this study and the effects of exercise type, duration, frequency, and intensity were all considered.
Participants were also asked about their income, and the study found that physically active people feel just as good as those who don't do sports but who earn about $25,000 more a year. Basically, exercising will make you feel just as happy as someone who earns more money.
But…(and there’s always a but)... overdoing it on the exercise front can have the opposite effect. The research found that three to five 45-minute training sessions per week is ideal. More than that and your mental health may suffer.
"The relationship between sport duration and mental load is U-shaped," said study author Adam Chekroud of Yale University in an interview with Die Welt.
No surprise, the study recognised that team sports can have more of a positive effect on mental health than other exercise activities due to the social aspect. Cycling and aerobic and gym activities also came out on top.