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Physical activity and psychological well-being
  1. Miguel Ángel Martinez-Gonzalez
  1. Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Navarre, Spain

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    Edited by S J H Biddle, K R Fox, S H Boutcher. (Pp 240; $29.99). Book News, 2000. ISBN 0-4152-3439-5.

    There exists good evidence supporting that physical activity reduces morbidity and mortality for coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Together with smoking cessation, sustaining a physically active life is currently seen as the other most beneficial aspect of lifestyle in terms of improvements in quantity and quality of life. Moreover, besides the advantages for preventing the five aforementioned conditions, a substantial emerging body of evidence is relating physical activity and exercise with a better psychological health.

    In this context, the book by Biddle et al provides an updated review of the studies that have assessed the relation between physical activity and psychological well being. The book is very well planned, structured, and organised. After an introductory chapter, the following outcomes are considered in separated chapters: anxiety, stress (Taylor), depression (Mutrie), mood (Biddle), self esteem (Fox), and cognitive performance (Boutcher). Szabo deals in the seventh chapter with potential psychological damages of exercise. The last chapter is devoted to synthesise the present state of research and to open avenues for practice and further research.

    The review of each outcome includes well presented tables with a narrative description of relevant studies. The Hill’s criteria of causality are elegantly applied to make the case for a protective role of exercise against depression. Plausibility reasons are always considered. Each chapter is ended with two synthetic series of remarks (what we know?, what we need to know?).

    The overview highlights that there is sufficient evidence to promote physical activity for increasing the psychological wellbeing of the population. It is true that physical activity should be promoted regardless of its psychological effects because of the associated physical health benefits, but a new argument makes the case stronger.

    Moreover, some of the insights provided by the book regarding improvements in cognitive function have been recently reinforced by new data showing a protection against dementia for those more physically active.1