Institute of Stress Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden; Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden.
OBJECTIVE: This study analyzes longitudinal associations between self-reported leisure-time physical activity (PA) and perceived stress, burnout and symptoms of depression and anxiety. METHOD: Cohort data collected in 2004 and 2006 from health care and social insurance workers in western Sweden (2694 women; 420 men) were analyzed. Cox regression was conducted to examine associations between baseline levels of PA and mental health (MH) problems 2years later. RESULTS: Cross-sectional analysis show that individuals reporting either light physical activity (LPA) or moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were less likely to report high levels of perceived stress, burnout and symptoms of depression and anxiety, as compared to individuals reporting a sedentary lifestyle. The risks of symptoms of depression, burnout, and high stress levels at follow-up were significantly lower for those reporting LPA or MVPA at baseline. For symptoms of anxiety, an activity level corresponding to MVPA was required. CONCLUSION: Participation in PA appeared to lower the risk of developing MH problems two years later. This relationship involved LPA and MVPA regarding feelings of depression, burnout and perceived stress, and exclusively MVPA regarding feelings of anxiety. The implications of these findings are important, as preventive strategies for psychosocial stress and mental health problems are needed.