Importance of Leisure Activity in Mental Health

When it comes to leisure time and health, depression is one aspect which cannot go unnoticed. Lack of sufficient leisure time activity has been reported to increase depression if well used. People who engage in leisure time activities, on the other hand, are on the safe side, as it is hard, if not impossible for them to show signs of depression.

People who engage in regular physical activity – however intense – are less likely to have symptoms of depression, according to new research published in the November issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

rocksResearchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London teamed up with academics from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Bergen in Norway to conduct the study. They asked 40,401 Norwegian residents how often they engaged in both light and intense physical activity during their leisure time. Light activity was defined as an activity that did not lead to being sweaty or out of breath, while intense activity did result in sweating or breathlessness. The residents were also asked how physically active they were at work, underwent a physical examination and answered questions regarding symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The team found an inverse relationship between the amount of leisure-time activity and symptoms of depression. In other words, the more people engaged in physical activity during their spare time, the less likely they were to be depressed. People who were not active in their leisure time were almost twice as likely to have symptoms of depression compared to the most active individuals. Interestingly, the intensity of the exercise didn’t seem to make any difference.

Even people who took light exercise, without breaking into a sweat or getting out-of-breath, were less likely to show symptoms of depression.

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Would it not be worth having a few minutes or hours increase years in your lifetime? Well, a well spent leisure time has been found to increase life expectancy among both men and women, while black people stand a better chance of a longer lifetime than the whites.

In order to determine the number of years of life gained from leisure-time physical activity in adulthood, which translates directly to an increase in life expectancy, researchers examined data on more than 650,000 adults. These people, mostly age 40 and older, took part in one of six population-based studies that were designed to evaluate various aspects of cancer risk.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of NIH, recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 engage in regular aerobic physical activity for 2.5 hours at moderate intensity — or 1.25 hours at vigorous intensity — each week. Moderate activities are those during which a person could talk but not sing. Vigorous activities are those during which a person could say only a few words without stopping for breath.

“Our findings highlight the important contribution that leisure-time physical activity in adulthood can make to longevity,” said study author Steven Moore, Ph.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and lead author of the study. “Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our study — normal weight, overweight, or obese.”

The researchers found that the association between physical activity and life expectancy was similar between men and women, and blacks gained more years of life expectancy than whites. The relationship between life expectancy and physical activity was stronger among those with a history of cancer or heart disease than among people with no history of cancer or heart disease.

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Lack of a useful activity during leisure time, or entire lack of the leisure time itself can easily cause anxiety. This is according to a study conducted on high school students, which shows that a considerable number of students who exercised during their leisure time were on the safe side.

The purpose of this study was to survey rate of anxiety in high school female students and its relation to how to spend leisure time. The Sample consisted of 136 students randomly selected. Two self-report questionnaires were used for the present study.

The first questionnaire includes spending leisure and the second one, that is, GHQ-28 was used to assess anxiety. Kolmogorov- Smirnov test and independent t-test were used for Statistical analyses. The results shows level of anxiety in the group who did physical activity in their leisure time was lower comparing with group who did sedentary activity (t=5.73, p=0.001). Therefore doing sport exercise in leisure can help students to reduce anxiety.

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