Among young adults, 12 weeks of moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training (MVCT) improved mental health and inflammation outcomes, according to results of a double-blind randomly assigned controlled trial published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.
Young adults (N=93) were recruited from a university in China between 2020 and 2021. Participants were randomly assigned to receive high-intensity interval training (HIIT; n=33), MVCT (n=32), or control (n=28) for 12 weeks. The MVCT and HIIT interventions were delivered in 40-minute sessions 3 times per week and were designed such that participants reached the maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) determined during a treadmill run. The control condition was an hour-long health education intervention delivered twice a week. The study outcomes included Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE), and inflammatory markers.
The study population comprised individuals with a mean age of 25.26±2.21 years, 46.24% were men, they had a BMI of 22.05±2.93 kg/m2, body fat ratio of 25.91%±5.00%, and VO2max of 43.71±7.26 mL/kg·min. At baseline, the 3 groups were well balanced, except that the MVCT cohort had significantly elevated albumin and globulin levels compared with the other 2 groups (both P <.001).
During the 3-month intervention, the MVCT recipients reported significant increases to well-being (adjusted mean difference [aMD], 1.33; P <.001), positive affect (aMD, 0.60; P <.001), satisfaction (aMD, 0.34; P =.021) and significant decreases to negative affect (aMD, -0.39; P =.039). Compared with controls, the changes in positive affect (P <.01), well-being (P <.01), and satisfaction (P <.05) were significant and compared with the HIIT intervention, the changes in positive affect (P <.05) and well-being (P <.05) were significant.
A total of 5 markers of inflammation were observed to increase during the study among the controls (all P ≤.0027). Compared with controls, immunoglobulin A (IgA) (β, -0.14; P <.001), Immunoglobulin M (IgM) (β, -0.12; P <.001), globulin (β, -3.17; P <.001), albumin (β, -1.64; P =.019), and lymphocyte count (β, -0.34; P =.034) were significantly decreased among the MVCT cohort at follow-up. Similarly, among the HIIT recipients, significant decreases to IgA, IgM, globulin, lymphocyte count, and lymphocyte count to total leukocyte ratio (all P ≤.048) were observed at follow-up compared with controls. Compared between MVCT and HIIT interventions, no significant difference in inflammatory markers were observed.
Overall, significant correlations were observed between the change in satisfaction with the change in IgA (β, -1.45; P <.001), globulin (β, -0.53; P =.0094), and albumin (β, -0.57; P =.024); negative affect with IgA (β, 2.57; P <.001), albumin (β, 0.093; P =.0035), and globulin (β, 0.072; P =.0057); well-being with IgA (β, -5.3; P <.001), globulin (β, -0.17; P =.0011), and albumin (β, -0.19; P =.0031); and positive affect with IgA (β, -1.28; P =.0045) and globulin (β, -0.044; P =.044).
This study may have been limited by not exploring additional markers of inflammation.
Study authors concluded, “This study could provide first-hand evidence of the effect of 12-week exercises on mental health among young adults, enlighten practical implications for public health to prevent mental disorders, and inspire ideas for treating other chronic inflammatory diseases.”
Liu J, Zhang Y, Li X, et al. Exercise improves mental health status of young adults via attenuating inflammation factors but modalities matter. Front Psychiatry. Published online December 14, 2022. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1067890