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Research: Tackling mental health

A report has found that having good cardiorespiratory fitness may cut the risk of death in men suffering from depression or anxiety by up to a half

By Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 6
Keeping fit for life gives huge benefits when it comes to mental health / photo: shutterstock.com
Keeping fit for life gives huge benefits when it comes to mental health / photo: shutterstock.com
Even moderate levels of fitness were associated with a lower risk of dying

Mental health and emotional disorders are often associated with a higher mortality risk. Now, a new study has found that having good cardiorespiratory fitness could help prevent early deaths among men who suffer from depression.

The study, led by Mei Sui of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, US, looked into a dataset collected by the Cooper Clinic in Dallas between 1987 and 2002. The Cooper Clinic conducted preventive health exams on more than 43,000 men during the 15-year period.

In particular, Sui and her team focused on the 5,240 men in the Cooper study who had been recorded as sufferers of “emotional distress” – such as depression, anxiety and a history of psychiatric or psychological counseling.

During the original study, the participants completed an extensive medical examination and were followed for all-cause mortality through to 2003. The cardiorespiratory fitness of participants was measured by them running on a treadmill until exhaustion.

Reducing the risk of death
Using the data from the Cooper study, Sui’s team found that men with at least moderate cardiovascular fitness were 46 per cent less likely to die of any cause during the study than those with the lowest recorded fitness levels. Those in the highest fitness group were 53 per cent less likely to die early.

The results in the final report, Cardiorespiratory Fitness and All-Cause Mortality in Men With Emotional Distress, led Sui and her team to conclude that, among men with emotional distress, higher CRF can be associated with a lower risk of dying, independent of other clinical mortality predictors.

Sui points out that as even moderate levels of fitness were associated with a lower risk of dying, prescribing exercise to those with mental health issues – especially depression and anxiety – could dramatically reduce early deaths.

“Our findings underscore the importance of promoting physical activity to maintain a healthy level of CRF in individuals with emotional distress,” said Sui. She added that exercise could also help with other issues. “Medication to treat mental problems is not only expensive, but also comes with significant side effects such as weight gain.

“Identifying modifiable factors that are beneficial to those with emotional distress has important clinical and public health applications,” said Sui.

“This significant strong inverse association between high levels of fitness and longevity in men with emotional distress is particularly interesting. Clearly, lifestyle behaviour interventions to increase fitness levels could help those with emotional distress.”

The cost of mental health has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. In October 2016, the NHS released figures that showed that one in three adults (37 per cent) aged 16-74, with conditions such as anxiety or depression, surveyed in England, were accessing mental health treatment.

It is estimated that the NHS spent more than £11.7bn n mental health services in 2014-2015.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness and All-Cause Mortality in Men With Emotional Distress (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research); Sui X, Ott J Jr, Becofsky K, Lavie CJ, Ernstsen L, Zhang J, Blair SN

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A recent report has found that having good cardiorespiratory fitness may cut the risk of death in men who suffer from depression or anxiety by up to half
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