Aerobic exercise classes help improve mental health for obese people

While physical activity provides mental health benefits for everyone, the best type of mood-elevating activity varies depending on weight and co-morbidities. Researchers of a recently published study in the Diary of Affective Disorders examined the relationship between type, frequency and duration of physical activity in people with obesity and different numbers of chronic diseases.

While physical activity is key for weight management and for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, adults with multiple comorbidities may not be able to perform the same activities as healthy adults or even an obese adult who has no other chronic health problems. By moving to the most beneficial type of activity for those with physical limitations, treatment can help.

To compare the effectiveness of different types, frequencies, and durations of activities in obese adults with and without comorbidities, the researchers used cross-sectional data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance (BRFSS), a repeat telephone survey of 18 adults. year. or older in the United States. They collected data collected between 2011 and 2019 (odd-numbered years only), resulting in 871,949 participants for the analysis. Of these, 43.82 were healthy, 10.09% were obese with no chronic comorbidities, 11.81% were obese with 1 comorbidity, and 34.8% were obese with 2 or more comorbidities.

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Hiking was the most popular activity of all groups. Aerobic exercise and strength training had the greatest mental health benefits for healthy individuals (21.92%, 20.46%), respectively. While running, walking and cycling were specifically associated with the greatest mental health benefits in healthy adults, aerobics videos and classes, golf and swimming benefited individuals with obesity and 1 comorbidity (22.14%, 20.75%, 19, respectively). .64%).

For individuals with obesity and 2 or more chronic conditions, only the aerobic videos and classes (19.6%) improved the mental health burden by more than 17%. The researchers also noted a U-shaped curve between exercise frequency, duration and mental health. Too little and too much were associated with poorer mental health outcomes. Patients who exercised for about 40 to 50 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week, reported the most positive mental health scores.

The self-reported nature of the responses may have led to recall bias. Questions about mental health burden and BMI may not have accurately reflected mental health status and clinical obesity. However, the study results may help doctors and clinicians make more targeted activity recommendations for obese individuals. “It is important to create different physical activity strategies for people with obesity and obesity-related chronic comorbidity in order to maximize people’s mental health,” the researchers concluded.


Xu P, Huang Y, Hou Q, et al. Relationship between physical activity and mental health in a nationally representative cross-sectional study: the variations according to obesity and comorbidity. J Affecting Disorder† 2022;308:484-493. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2022.04.037

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