• by:
  • July 21st, 2020

Several scientific studies demonstrate the benefits of physical activity. In particular, it has been shown that playing sports can also be a cure for mood-related disorders, such as anxiety and depression. In addition to being considered a major resource for the psychological and physical health of patients who already take medications, exercise can also be considered an actual therapy, as far as having a protective effect in the onset of mental illness. Everything improves when we follow a healthy and balanced lifestyle.


A study carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Vermont Medical Center (in Burlington, United States) involved 100 patients from the psychiatric ward, where a gym was built. Participants were hospitalized for various mental illnesses: anxiety, depression, bipolarity and schizophrenia. In their therapeutic programs, in addition to a balanced nutritional regimen, 1 hour workouts were included, with a frequency of 4 times a week. The sessions included cardio-vascular activities, weight exercises and stretching, using both body weight and equipment.

The patients completed self-assessment questionnaires regarding mood and self-esteem, before and after the study period. At the end of the experiment, the participants found lower levels of anxiety, depression and anger, as well as greater self-esteem, compared to the beginning of the experiment. Specifically, 95% of patients responded that their mood had improved, 65% reported feeling happy or very happy. Also, 91% of the participants said they were happy with how they felt physically and 97% said they wanted to continue practicing physical activity. The research results were published in the scientific journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine (May 2019).


Previous research had already shown the connection between physical activity and mood, showing how those who play sports or go to the gym do not typically suffer from depression. This was highlighted by a study conducted at the Universidade La Salle in Brazil by a team of international researchers (American, Australian, Belgian, British and Swedish). According to this survey, physical activity keeps depression away in all age groups (young, adults and the elderly) and the geographical area considered.

The researchers looked at the results of 49 studies that included data from nearly 267,000 mentally healthy individuals (53% women and 47% men), whom they followed for about 7 and a half years. Research showed that more active people were less likely to develop depressive states than less active individuals. This demonstrates how playing sports has a protective effect against depression, while also counteracting its onset. The results of this investigation were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2018).

A previous study by UC Davis – University of California (USA), had already shown how physical activity can positively influence mental states and mood. Playing sports increases the production of two neurotransmitters (GABA and glutamate) whose levels, on the other hand, are low in case of depression. Furthermore, it seems that sports increase neuro-physiological activity, detected through electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (RMF), thus reducing anxiety and depression, linked to GABA depletion. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2016).

All these data are in support of the fact that physical activity can be an effective therapy in the treatment of mood disorders, alleviating the various symptoms, so as to significantly reduce the use of drugs.


  1. David Tomasi et Al. – Positive Patient Response to a Structured Exercise Program Delivered in Inpatient Psychiatry – (May 2019)
  2. Schuch et al., Physical Activity and Incident Depression: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies, American Journal of Psychiatry (July 2018)
  3. Maddock RJ, Casazza GA, Fernandez DH, and Maddock MI. Acute Modulation of Cortical Glutamate and GABA Content by Physical Activity. Journal of Neuroscience (February 2016)


By Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus editorial staff
Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus aims to make scientific dissemination by raising awareness among the scientific and non-scientific community of a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition through the production of explanatory scientific articles, textual, infographics and multimedia content, and the dissemination of clinical activities scientific, informative and educational aspects of the Foundation and its team of professionals. Dietary pathways, scientific discoveries, clinical studies, treatments and technologies, national and international awareness events, prevention initiatives as well as Longevity recipes are just some of the topics addressed in articles and in-depth interviews published daily and written in collaboration with the Foundation’s specialists. Also active on social networks, Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus editorial staff also offers a monthly newsletter sent to all members, to stay up to date on the most interesting news related to the world of Health, Nutrition and Longevity.
Romina Inés Cervigni
Alessandra Fedato
Maria Liliana Ciraulo
Corinna Montana Lampo
Cristina Villa
Contact: press@valterlongo.com or + 39 02 2513 8307


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