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

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


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

Method: 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.

Results: 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.

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

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology