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June 26, 2005

Physical Activity Has Benefits for the Mentally Ill

A recent study was done concerning the medical costs for the mentally ill. The researchers compared those who were sedentary to those who lived an active lifestyle and found that there was a significant difference in medical costs for the two groups. "Scientists from the United States conducted a study 'to determine whether leisure-time physical activity is associated with lower direct annual medical expenditures among a sample of adults with mental disorders. Using the 1995 National Health Interview Survey and 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, differences between medical expenditures for sedentary and active persons were analyzed using t-tests'" (, 2005).

On average those who were sedentary had a medical expenditure that was $2,785 higher than the active group.

"The total expenditure associated with sedentary behavior was $31.7 billion ($19.1 billion in men; $12.6 billion in women). Physical activity is associated with a reduced economic burden among people with mental disorders" (, 2005).

The physical health benefits that are reaped from having an active lifestyle have long been common knowledge, but the mental health benefits have not been as thoroughly discussed. Having an active lifestyle is associated with better mental health for several reasons. The first is the obvious fact that it means the person has a hobby, sport, or exercise that they do on a continuous basis. This gives them something to look forward to and something to focus on. The second reason is that exercise releases endorphins into the brain. Endorphins are hormones that numb physical pain and give one feelings of emotional contentness. Many people use running as a way to release stress and to alleviate feelings of depression. Sometimes people can use this to medicate their mental disorder naturally instead of using medication. Others use it in addition to medication to relieve any of their remaining symptoms.

Adopting an active lifestyle after a lifetime of being inactive can be difficult, simply because change is difficult. Not to mention that it takes no effort to be sedentary, whereas exercising or playing a sport does. Hopefully knowing the mental health benefits of "activity" will increase the number of people who take on an active lifestyle and therefore benefit from what can often be a natural symptom alleviator.

For more information on the link between endorphins and your mental health go to:

The source of this article was the Medical Letter on the CDC & FDA via

This study was published in the American Journal of Health Behavior under the title of: A preliminary analysis of medical expenditures among active and sedentary U.S. adults with mental disorders.


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