Muscle strength may give insight to a person’s mental stability

January 18, 2013


Muscle strength may give insight to a person’s mental stability

Engaging in physical activity can be a fun and easy way for people to stay on top of their health, and it aids in injury prevention. It also helps build muscle strength, which, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal, reduces the likelihood that individuals will develop a psychiatric illness or commit suicide.

Spanish, Swedish and Finnish researchers followed approximately 1 million male teenagers from Sweden, who were between the ages of 16 and 19, for two years. They discovered that subjects who had lower muscular strength had a 30 percent increased chance of taking their lives and a 65 percent greater risk of developing mental illnesses.

"The results of this study have many potential applications since we provide reference charts that can be used at school, sports and clinic centers to identify abnormally low strength in individuals," said principal investigator Francisco Ortega. "Once they are identified, these individuals should be encouraged to participate in physical exercise programs to improve their fitness status and muscular strength to prevent the development of diseases in the future."

Simple tests, like the grip strength test or leg extension text, can be performed to assess adolescents' muscle strength in school settings in order to identify individuals who may be at risk for mental disorders.

Prevalent among Americans
In the U.S., approximately 26 percent of Americans who are aged 18 or older develop diagnosable psychiatric conditions, like depression, schizophrenia and anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. These illnesses are the leading cause of disability in the nation.

To avoid developing mental illnesses, people should consider staying physically active from an early age. Not only does exercise trigger the body to release endorphins – which naturally boost moods and improve mental health – but it also has a slew of other benefits. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these include controlling weight strengthening bones and muscles, increasing longevity and reducing risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic symptoms and some cancers.

Exercising on a regular basis gets the brain thinking, learning and analyzing. The CDC states that engaging in aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities for 30 to 60 minutes three to five times per week may provide individuals with mental health benefits.

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