Exercise and Mental Health

Each year, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. This is around double the global average for Australians. Even though it is a huge issue that affects a lot of us, there is poor understanding and acceptance of mental illness. As a result, it often goes undiagnosed and is either untreated or poorly treated.

How can mental illness impact a person’s life?

Mental illness can impact how a person thinks, behaves and functions around other people. Those with mental illness can often struggle to engage in their regular work, social and physical activities to full extent, which further impacts the illness as social isolation then often occurs.

Mental illness includes anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and personality disorders.

Why is exercise important?

There is a growing body of evidence to support exercise as a way to treat, manage and prevent mental illnesses such as depression. Current research indicates that exercise is an effective treatment method for people suffering from acute and chronic mental illness.

Exercise can have a protective effect in the prevention of depression. It can also assist in the treatment of depression. Some studies even suggest that exercise is just as effective, if not more as drug therapies in alleviating depressive symptoms. Research has shown that regular aerobic and strength training activities of light to moderate intensity can result in a 50% reduction in symptoms of depression or anxiety.  

Exercise can make a huge difference in mood and needs to an essential part of mental health treatment. Even exercising once a week is known to have great benefits!

Exercise is also important for counteracting the side effects of some medications such as reducing the risk of falling by strengthening muscles, helping control body weight and blood pressure.

What specific kinds of exercise are important in mental health?

Aerobic exercise and strength training have been shown to be effective in treating mental conditions such as major depression. It is good to try a range of different exercises to see which ones you enjoy – this will help you make exercise a lifelong habit! The most important part of doing exercise is to stick to it long-term in order to get the most benefits.

Some tips to help you keep exercising

·       Doing more exercise at a higher intensity may be more effective at improving mental illness, but people may be less likely to stick to them. It may be easier to start slowly (less exercise and a lower intensity) and build up gradually. This may look like starting with a 10-15 minute walk each morning and gradually increasing this to 30 minutes a day

·       Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see benefits straight away! Most exercise studies have shown that a significant reduction in depression after 8 or more weeks of an exercise intervention

Exercise Physiologists are here to help!

It can be helpful to work with an appropriately educated professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who understands the complexity of the challenges faced with mental health conditions. Exercise Physiologists have the skills and knowledge to help individuals manage their condition and any barriers they may come up against.

Talk to us today about seeing one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists to help you create and implement an exercise program that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. Please contact us on 0419 287 631 or info@bblifestyleclinic.com.au.

 If you want to find out more about the relationship between exercise and mental health, check out http://exerciseright.com.au/mental-health-monsters/. References to research are available upon request.