An exploratory study of associations of physical activity with mental health and work engagement

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Background: Previous studies have found moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) to be associated with a decreased risk of mental disorders. Although the focus in the field of psychology has shifted towards human strengths and optimal functioning, studies examining associations between MVPA and mental health in general (MH) and between MVPA and well-being are scarce. An indicator of work-related well-being is work engagement (WE). The aim of this study was to explore the associations between MVPA and MH, and between MVPA and WE. Methods. In this study, a total of 257 employees from two research institutes, self-reported their MVPA, MH and level of WE. In addition, a randomly chosen subgroup (n=100) wore an Actigraph accelerometer for a 1-week period to measure their MVPA objectively. Crude and adjusted associations between MVPA and both WE and MH were analyzed using linear regression analyses. Results: There was no statistically significant association between self-reported MVPA and mental health, resulting from both the crude (b=0.058, 95% CI -0.118 - 0.235) and adjusted analyses (b=0.026; 95% CI -0.158- 0.210), nor between objectively measured MVPA and mental health for both crude and adjusted analyses (b=-0.144; 95% CI -1.315- 1.027; b=-0.199; 95% CI 1.417- 1.018 respectively). There was also no significant association between self-reported MVPA and work engagement (crude: b=0.005; 95% CI -0.005-0.016, adjusted: b= 0.002; 95% CI -0.010- 0.013), nor between objectively measured MVPA and work engagement (crude: b= 0.012; 95% CI -0.084- 0.060, adjusted: b=0.007; 95% CI -0.083-0.069). Conclusions: Although the beneficial effects of MVPA on the negative side of MH (i.e. mental disorders) have been established in previous studies, this study found no evidence for the beneficial effects of MVPA on positive side of MH (i.e. well-being). The possible difference in how the physical activity-mental health relationship works for negative and positive sides of MH should be considered in future studies. © 2013 van Berkel et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Article number558
JournalBMC public health
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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