Regular physical exercise has been characterized as a positive health behavior having physiological benefits. It may also yield psychological benefits. The purpose of the present study was therefore to explore the association between physical exercise frequency and a number of measures of psychological well-being in a large population-based sample.
A total of 3403 participants (1856 women and 1547 men) of the Finnish cardiovascular risk factor survey, ranging in age between 25 and 64, completed questionnaires. Besides answering questions concerning their exercise habits and perceived health and fitness, the participants also completed the Beck Depression Inventory, the State-Trait Anger Scale, the Cynical Distrust Scale, and the Sense of Coherence inventory.
The results of this cross-sectional study suggest that individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust, and stress than those exercising less frequently or not at all. Furthermore, regular exercisers perceived their health and fitness to be better than less frequent exercisers did. Finally, those who exercised at least twice a week reported higher levels of sense of coherence and a stronger feeling of social integration than their less frequently exercising counterparts.
The results indicate a consistent association between enhanced psychological well-being, as measured using a variety of psychological inventories, and regular physical exercise.