The Most Effective Sports for Improving Mental Health

get thank you notes from cyclists’ spouses and significant others.

They typically containing some variation of, “Thank you for returning my husband/wife to me. The happy and vibrant person I fell in love with is back!” I have no doubt helping athletes train consistently, rediscover their fitness, and have fun on the bike again can have a transformative effect on a person’s life, career, and relationships. Exercise has long been known to positively impact mental health, and with access to survey data from 1.2 million Americans, a new study aims to see how sport type and exercise frequency, duration, and intensity influence the association between exercise and mental health.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry and featured in a Wall Street Journal article, examined data from the 2011, 2013, and 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention administered via telephone surveys with Americans 18 years old and above in all 50 states. While it can’t really identify causality (whether exercise improves mental health or people with better mental health exercise more), but the sheer magnitude of the sample size provides an advantage over similar research with much smaller groups.

Before looking at the data, it’s important to note the 1.2 million respondents were from the general population. Some were probably athletes, but the researchers didn’t specifically look at the influence of sport type, frequency, duration, and intensity on mental health in already moderately- to well-trained athletes (i.e. you and me). I would suspect the data trends would be similar for a trained athlete subpopulation, but perhaps the effect sizes could be different.

The measure they were looking for came from the answer to this question: ““Now thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?” Other questions in the survey were also used to gather data. Here is what they found, and how it may apply to you.

Read more in the link: