Local| How can physical activity at work improve mental health

By on June 26, 2016

An increasing fraction of the population is suffering from stress-related mental health problems as a result of stressors in their private lives and work environments. Research indicates that a physically-active lifestyle promotes brain health. However, there are still large knowledge gaps.

We don’t know which activity patterns are best for enhancing our ability to think and our mental wellbeing. This comprehensive research project will answer these questions. The goal is to provide both employers and employees with an understanding of how physical activity can be used as a tool for promoting healthy brain function, says Associate Professor Maria Ekblom at The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH.

Previous research has shown that physically-active individuals feel better and have a better ability to think than individuals who are less active. But it is uncertain which components of our physical activity patterns that are important. New objective measurement methods will be used in this four-year project, which will make it possible to obtain a more detailed picture of physical activity patterns and their impacts. The term “physical activity patterns” includes how often and how long an individual sits, and engages in low-intensity activities or more intensive activities (like training), during a day. Studying these patterns in detail is one of several unique aspects of this series of studies.

This is an opportunity for GIH to contribute through its research to reducing stress-related health problems in the workplace and in people’s lives, says President Karin Larsén.

The budget for the research project is approximately 38 million SEK, and will be co-financed by The Knowledge Foundation, seven Swedish companies and employers, and GIH. Intrum Justitia Sweden, ICA Sweden, Itrim Sweden, SATS ELIXIA and Monark Exercise are some of the participating companies.

The motivation for the private companies to participate is in part to form evidence-based, health-promoting working methods in their human resources work, and in part to develop new services and products in a growing market, both nationally and internationally.

It is amazing to have the opportunity to be part of this important research project, so that we can explore which health-improvement efforts actually make a real difference. This is important for all companies that desire to take responsibility for and live up to the regulations and guidelines that govern our efforts with respect to working environments, says Human Resources Director Rakel Segefalk.

Training & Health