NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – More active men seem to have a rosier outlook on life, new research from Finland shows.
Dr. Maarit Valtonen of Kuopio University Hospital and colleagues found that men who spent less than one hour a week doing moderate to vigorous leisure-time physical activity were 37% more likely to report feeling hopeless than men who logged at least 2.5 hours weekly.
Feeling hopeless has been linked to worse heart health and greater risk of dying, the researchers note, independent of the effects of depression. To investigate whether physical exercise might influence hopelessness — just as it has been shown to help reduce depression — the researchers surveyed 2,428 men, 42 to 60 years old, about their mood and physical activity levels and tested their fitness.
The men reporting the highest levels of hopelessness had “more pronounced features” of the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that boosts risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They were also less active and less physically fit.
The men who got at least 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week were significantly less likely to be hopeless than men who were active for an hour or less weekly, and this association remained even after the researchers adjusted for age, socioeconomic status, smoking, and other relevant factors. Vigorous physical activity had a particularly strong effect.
When the researchers adjusted for depression, the link between hopelessness and activity remained. But while low levels of fitness were also tied to greater likelihood of feeling hopeless, further analysis found depression was the responsible factor.
Many people, including those who aren’t depressed or otherwise mentally ill, feel hopeless, the researchers note. The current findings, they say, suggest that “hopelessness and depression are overlapping, but distinct entities.”
The findings also suggest that being active can help “ameliorate or protect against feelings of hopelessness” even if a person’s fitness levels don’t improve.
SOURCE: BMC Public Health, online June 25, 2009.
physical activity remains the number one tool to fight depression