PMU-Autor/inn/enHartl Arnulf Josef
Knowledge about potential protective factors against mental health problems is highly needed. Regular physical activity (PA) in an outdoor environment, like mountain exercising, might reduce psychological distress. Therefore, the aims of the present study were to assess the prevalence of mental health problems in mountain exercisers and to detect factors associated with psychological distress. In a cross-sectional design, we collected self-reported data of 1,536 Austrian mountain exercisers. The prevalence of mental health problems and psychological distress (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale), the level of PA International Physical Activity Questionnaire, and affective valence during PA (Feeling Scale) were obtained. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to assess factors influencing psychological distress. The prevalence of mental health problems in Austrian mountain exercisers was 14%. Health-enhancing PA level and higher affective valence during PA were significantly associated with lower psychological distress. Minimal PA level was not significantly associated with lower psychological distress compared to inactive PA level. Marital status, education, alpine association membership, and body mass index did not show a significant influence on psychological distress. The prevalence of mental health problems seems to be lower in Austrian mountain exercisers compared to the European population. A health-enhancing PA level and affective valence increasing forms of PA were shown to be associated with lower psychological distress. Results might lead to interventional studies focusing on the potential of outdoor PA, e.g., mountain exercise, as an adjunct treatment in people at risk or with mental health problems.
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