Fitness Articles

Just One Workout A Week Can Improve Your Mood

Cut Work Stress With Exercise

THE EDITORS OF PREVENTION

Job burnout. Nearly everyone battles it, if they’re being honest. And it can be worse this time of year, when you add commuting in the dark, holiday shopping, and increasingly lousy weather. There’s a simple antidote, though, and it fits nicely during this hectic time: You can banish job burnout and work stress by exercising just once a week, reveals a small study published in BMC Psychiatry. (Want to pick up some healthier habits? Sign up to get daily healthy living tips delivered straight to your inbox!)

For a year and a half, researchers at the Institute of Stress Medicine and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden tracked 69 women and men who were under treatment for stress-related exhaustion. All had mild to moderate depression, anxiety, or burnout—and none of them exercised, period.

Initially, the volunteers attended lectures about the benefits of exercise, and were offered access to a coached walking program that included light strength training. After a few weeks, though, they were left to their own devices. The researchers checked back with the volunteers at 6 months, 1 year, and again at 18 months, measuring both their activity levels and their mental health.

Exercise and stress

PHOTOGRAPH BY ASSEMBLY/GETTY IMAGES

By the end of the study, 21 of the original 69 volunteers had embraced exercise and were working out 3 or more times a week; 22 were exercising at least once a week; the remaining 26 were back on the couch (or never got off it). When the researchers tested depression, stress, and burnout levels in the 3 groups, they found that the active volunteers—even those exercising only once a week—had cut their scores on tests of burnout and depression by half, and they were faring much better than their sedentary study mates.

The researchers say the message is clear: Exercise—even as little as 1 workout a week—can make a big difference in mood and needs to be a fundamental part of mental health treatment. When the winter blues start to make your work a miserable chore, try setting the alarm early so you can squeeze in a walk or a quick trip to the gym: It may be exactly attitude adjustment you need.

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