Physical activity refers to any movement caused by skeletal muscle that raises energy expenditure above basal metabolic rate (Caspersen, Powell & Christenson, 1985). So, in short, anything you do in terms of muscle activity more than you necessarily already perform unconsciously. This includes, among other things, physical activities at work, at home, or during leisure time. Exercise is not only important for your physical health, but also for your mental health. It makes a significant contribution to the prevention of a wide range of illnesses. 

In addition, regular physical activity promotes well-being and life satisfaction and also reduces depressive symptoms. Last but not least, it increases life expectancy.

Consequences of insufficient movement

Overall, people are moving less than they used to. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO for short, over one-third of adults and over two-thirds of adolescents in the European region do not meet the recommendations of 2.5 h of physical activity per week. As a result, physical inactivity has become a leading risk factor of health problems. In the European Region, about 1 million deaths and the loss of 8.3 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) annually can be attributed to physical inactivity.

The decrease in physical activity results in a spread of non-communicable diseases. A significant lack of physical activity as well as obesity, along with a hereditary predisposition, are considered the main factors in the common disease type 2 diabetes. A 2017 meta-analysis found that physical activity can alleviate the intensity of pain as well as improve physical functioning (Geneen et al., 2017). A review from the Cochrane Library shows that a persistent lack of physical activity as one of the most important risk factors for cancer as well as chronic diseases. In addition, physical activity also reduces the risk of disease or leads to improvement in symptoms of, for example, heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, and mental illnesses such as depression.

Physical activity as a superfood for mental health?

British researchers at Oxford and Yale Universities have investigated whether physical activity makes people feel better. For this purpose, they surveyed a total of more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. over several years about their emotional state over the past 30 days. On average, participants felt bad 3.4 days per month. This figure was reduced by 1.5 days per month for people who were more physically active, such as exercising, doing housework and mowing the lawn. However, it is not always possible to tell exactly what is cause and what is effect in the studies. According to Ulrich Hegerl, Chairman of the Stiftung Deutsche Derpressionshilfe (German Foundation for Help with Depression), it is theoretically possible that people who are doing well are generally more motivated and therefore do more sports. Hegerl warns that increased exercise can in no way replace medical therapy for depression. However, many studies have already shown that physical activity is a successful component in the treatment of depression. All in all, increased physical activity has a positive effect on mental health.


WHO recommendations

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides recommendations for "sufficient" physical activity in terms of duration and intensity. Adherence to these recommendations can significantly reduce the likelihood of disease occurrence.

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Apps & Podcasts

We'd like to help you find the right app for you to help you overcome your inner badass. We also listened to a few podcasts for you and tell you what we liked about them and for whom they are particularly suitable.

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The RPTU University Sports offers many opportunities to be active in sports. With over 100 sports, there is certainly something for you.

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