The mental health benefits of replacing social media with exercise

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Research has shown that spending less time on social media and exercising more time can enhance emotional well-being and reduce stress. Thomas Barwick / Getty Images
  • German researchers say replacing 30 minutes of social media use per day with physical activity can boost emotional well-being and reduce stress.
  • The benefits of exercise persisted for 6 months after their study ended.
  • Participants who reduced social media use, exercised more happiness and reduced stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Lower social media use was also associated with lower tobacco consumption.

Social media use has exploded with COVID-19 lockdowns and communication restrictions. Millions have turned to Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and other platforms to escape feelings of isolation, anxiety, and despair.

However, excessive time in front of screens led to addictive behaviors, a stronger emotional connection to social media, and deeper psychological anxiety for many people.

Researchers at Ruhr University In Bochum, Germany I investigated the effects of reducing social media use (SMU) and increasing physical activity, or both, on emotional well-being and tobacco consumption.

Julia BrylosevskayaPh.D., assistant professor at the university’s Center for Mental Health Research and Treatment, led the two-week trial.

Brailosvskaia and her team note that the interventions they proposed may have helped boost participants’ life satisfaction. At a 6-month follow-up, subjects continued to report spending less time on social media, maintaining physical activity, feeling happier, and smoking fewer cigarettes.

The Public Health Journal These results were recently published.

The study authors note that mental health “is made up of two interrelated but separate dimensions: positive and negative.”

With this model, they hypothesized that the positive dimension of their intervention would “increase life satisfaction and subjective happiness”. The negative dimension would reduce “depressive symptoms and addictive tendencies from SMU.”

Medical news today Discuss this study with Drs.sakklon zablo, author and nutrition psychiatrist. He did not participate in the research.

In response to a question about the impact of social media on mental health, Dr. Zablo emphasized:

“If activities interfere with basic, customary, age-appropriate parameters of economic self-sufficiency, socialization, or health maintenance, they are harmful. Activities can be alcohol abuse, drug abuse, dietary choices, exercise choices, or choices Entertainment – specifically social media.”

Dr. Zablo warned that excessive use of social media weakens social bonds between people, which can negatively affect mental health.

MNT Also talk to Dr. David A. Merrill, an adult and elderly psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Brain Health Center of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, regarding the current study. He did not participate in the research.

Dr. Merrill argued that the term social media is “a misnomer that looks a lot like bait and switch,” and is designed to “increase user engagement.”

He said excessive social media use “may exacerbate” mental problems for people with addictive behavioral health conditions or vulnerabilities.

“There is a brain reward system that you get from clicking, swiping, or maintaining social media use,” Dr. Merrill said.

“I suspect [that the authors are] Demonstrate that both of you need to be conscious of the need to reduce the soothing side of social media use, and that you also need alternatives, so you must have another way to bring happiness into your life, especially during the pandemic.”

As a psychiatrist, Dr. Zablo emphasized that “a key part of any recommended treatment program is exercise. Psychotherapy, and medication, when indicated, will not work well if the person does not exercise.”

Dr. Zablo added that exercise increases the production of neurotransmitters, “natural antidepressants and anti-anxiety molecules” in the brain.

Thus, more exercise can build mental health, while less activity due to excessive social media use can limit healthy brain chemistry.

Dr. Brylosevskaya and colleagues conclude that “a conscious and controlled reduction of time spent in SMU as well as an increase in time spent in physical activity can causally reduce the negative mental health consequences of a COVID-19 condition.” They also thought that combining both interventions might amplify this effect.

The professor stated that the methods could easily fit into everyday life with little cost, effort or risk of violating COVID-19 protocols.

Furthermore, the scientists expected their experiment to reduce stress from COVID-19 and reduce smoking behaviour.

The researchers recruited 642 healthy adult social media users and placed them into 4 experimental groups.

The social media (SM) group consisted of 162 individuals, the physical activity (PA) group of 161 individuals, the group of 159 individuals, and the control group of 160 individuals.

Over the course of two weeks, the SMU participants reduced their daily SMU time by 30 minutes and the PA group increased their daily physical activity by 30 minutes. The combination group applied both interventions, while the control group did not change their behaviours.

Follow-up to the World Health Organization physical activity recommendations For adults, the first three sets increased exercise time by 30 minutes.

Participants completed online surveys and ‘daily commitment’ diaries at the start of the trial, one week later, and after a two week period. They also provided follow-up surveys at 1, 3, and 6 months after the trial.

Dr. Brailosvskaia and her team concluded that their interventions helped people reduce the time they spent with SM.

Even after 6 months of the experiment, “participants reduced their daily initial SM time by about 37 minutes in the SM group, by about 33 minutes in the PA group, and about 46 minutes in the compound group.”

Furthermore, participants reported a low emotional attachment to social media.

All interventions encouraged more physical activity as well. After six months, the participants increased their initial weekly physical activity time by 26 minutes in the SM group, by 40 minutes in the PA group, and by 1 hour and 39 minutes in the compound group, the authors wrote.

Even the control group increased their activity by 20 minutes.

Dr. Merrill was impressed by the “incredible results of the study combined with less social media and increased physical activity.” Agree with the idea that the limitations of the SMU need a complementary activity that brings joy or a sense of accomplishment.

According to the study authors, the “experimental longitudinal design” of their current research allowed them to establish causation.

However, the study population lacked diversity. All participants were young, female, German, Caucasian, and highly educated.

Dr. Merrill felt that although it would be “interesting” to repeat this investigation in the United States with a more diverse group, the results would likely be similar.

The study did not take into account which form of SMU the subjects were using or specify the type of physical activity the participants participated in. The researchers hope that future work will focus more on these factors.

Dr. Brylosevskaya’s research indicates that modest changes in SMU and physical activity can help adequately and affordably protect and promote mental health.

The professor and her team understand how SMU can reduce isolation and help spread information.

“From time to time it is important to consciously limit online access and go back to human roots — […] A physically active lifestyle – to stay happy and healthy in the age of digitalisation,” the researchers wrote.

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