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J Psychosom Res. 2011 Nov;71(5):342-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 18.

Physical exercise in adults and mental health status findings from the Netherlands mental health survey and incidence study (NEMESIS).

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Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



To establish associations between physical exercise during leisure time and prevalence, incidence and course of mental disorders.


Data were derived from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study, a 3-wave cohort study in a representative sample (N=7,076) of Dutch adults. Mental disorders were assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Physical activity was established by the number of hours per week people spent on taking physical exercise.


Physical exercise was negatively associated with presence and first-onset of mood and anxiety disorders after adjustment for confounders. Evidence for a dose-response relationship between exercise levels and mental health was not found. Among those with mental disorder at baseline, exercise participants were more likely to recover from their illness (OR=1.47) compared to their counterparts who did not take exercise.


Physical exercise is beneficial to mental health, but it remains uncertain whether this association truly reflects a causal effect of exercise.

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