Mental illness effects one in five people in any one year and will impact around 45% of the population throughout their lifetime. Additionally, the current COVID-19 pandemic has seen the mental health status of the community decline over the last 12 months. If prescribed correctly, exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on many mental health conditions and associated symptoms, including depression, anxiety and generalised stress.
A world-wide study observed that regular exercise can reduce the chances of developing depression by up to 17%. Exercise has also been shown to increase self-confidence and improve both memory and concentration, without the risk of side-effects that may present with medication.
Currently, the Physical Activity Guidelines recommend attaining at least 150 min of moderate‐to‐vigorous physical activity per week for reducing the risk of depression (including postnatal depression) and improvement in overall cardiovascular and metabolic health. This exercise can include both aerobic and resistance based exercise.
Benefits of exercise for mental health
The benefits that come with regular exercise for mental health include the following:
Improvement in mood
Increased energy and stamina
Reduced tiredness leading to increase mental alertness
Aid in reducing side affects of prescribed mental health medications
General exercise improvements in muscular strength and endurance, improvements in cardiovascular and metabolic health and overall health and fitness.
What do the studies say?
Aerobic and resistance training can improve memory, mood, cognition and blood flow to the brain. The areas of the brain that show the best response to exercise are the limbic system (motivation and mood), amygdala (stress response) and hippocampus (memory, mood and motivation). During exercise, endorphins (so-called ‘feel-good chemicals’) are released, helping to relieve pain and stress during and post physical activity.
Other chemicals are also stimulated and will positively affect our mood – including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
In addition, cortisol (considered a ‘stress-hormone’) levels are reduced allowing us to feel less stressed, after performing physical activity.
For more information on exercise for mental health, tips or to book a consultation with the Active One Group, be sure to get in touch with our helpful Melbourne-based team today on (03) 8707 0830.