A bit of physical activity can really brighten the outlook of people suffering from serious mental illnesses (SMI) like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
An Indiana University (IU) study "found a positive association between physical activity level and positive mood when low to moderate levels of physical activity are considered," said study author Bryan McCormick, associate professor in IU's department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies.
Low levels of physical activity also common to this population poses a major hurdle, however. For this study, physical activity is considered most forms of sustained movement, such as house cleaning, gardening, walking for transportation or formal exercise.
"The challenge is how to use naturally motivating activities that people have in their everyday lives to get them out and engaged," McCormick said.
For seven consecutive days, researchers randomly paged participants, who then filled out questionnaires about their mood and recent activities. The responses were matched with data collected during the previous 10 minutes using small light-weight accelerometers worn by the study participants.
The equipment measured activity levels and duration. McCormick said this was the first time these research methods were combined, allowing researchers to look at study participants' daily ups and downs as they occur rather than trying to average the experiences.
The study involved 11 people from the US and 12 from Serbia. Central Europe is experiencing a shift from institutional care to community care for its citizens with SMI, similar to the shift seen in the US in the 1970s, said an IU release.
McCormick said: "I was expecting a higher level of physical activity within the population of Eastern Europeans. We didn't see any differences."
The study was published in the November issue of the International Journal of Social Psychiatry.