The Effects of Physical Activity on Physical and Psychological Health
Wayne T. Phillips Arizona Stute University
Abby C. King Stunford University School of Medicine
Orandum est sit ut mens sana in corpore sano (Our prayer is for a healthy mind in a healthy body)
The concept of a body-mind connection has survived since its origination with the early Greek philosophers. Although few people even today would disagree with the sentiments expressed in the aforementioned quotation, it is apparent that both physical and mental health in the United States are at suboptimal levels as physical effort becomes less and less a necessary requisite for everyday living. Today the majority of the U.S. population is essentially sedentary, reporting little or no exercise of even low to moderate intensity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1991). The links between such inactivity and the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), as well as other chronic disease states, have been well established with both epidemiological and clinical studies (Bouchard, Shephard, & Stephens, 1994; Bouchard, Shephard, Stephens, Sutton, & McPherson, 1990). Impaired psychological health is also a pandemic problem in the United States, with an estimated 8 to 20 million people (3%–8% of the population) suffering from an affective or depressive disorder (D. R. Brown, 1990; Hatfield & Landers, 1987). As many as 25% of the U.S. population suffer from mild to moderate depression, anxiety and/or other indicators of emotional disorders (President's Commission on Mental Health, 1978). These figures have been represented as “the tip of the iceberg, ” because the majority of individuals with such conditions rarely seek treatment (D. R. Brown, 1990, p. 607). Additionally, more than 40% of the adult population are reported as experiencing adverse health effects from stress (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1991).
The financial and social costs of such levels of physical and psychological ill health are now beginning to be addressed (Shephard, 1990) and are considerable, albeit complex and extremely difficult to quantify. Although no costs specifically attributed to physical inactivity have been published, Klarman (1964) estimated that the direct costs to the U.S. economy from all forms of cardiovascular disease in 1962 was $3.1 billion, with a further sum of from $3 to $5 billion estimated for secondary costs such as loss of production, pain, and family distress. Considering that physical inactivity has been shown to be an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease (National Institutes of Health, 1995), and no more than 25% of the population meets the current physical activity-cardiovascular health recommendations (Haskell, 1995), a substantial portion