- Exercise was found to be more effective than medication or counseling
- The study shows its impacts are quite speedy
- Physical activity “should be a mainstay approach” in managing mental health conditions: Researchers
Exercise is key to good physical health, but just how important is it when it comes to mental health? Physical activity may be more effective in managing mental health than medications, researchers have found. On the same subject : Why Jennifer Aniston Skipped Oscars 2021? Twitter Revisits ‘Friends’ Star’s Previous Red Carpet Looks.
For their study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a team of researchers conducted a comprehensive review of studies on the impacts of physical activity on “symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adult populations.” They looked at 97 reviews, encompassing 1,039 trials and a total of more than 128,000 participants.
“Physical activity is known to help improve mental health. Yet despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment,” study researcher Dr. Ben Singh, of the University of South Australia (UniSA), said in a media release.
The researchers found that exercise improved symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress – 1.5 times more effective than the “leading medications” or even counseling.
The exercise interventions had an impact fast, as the ones that were 12 weeks or shorter were found to be the “most effective” in reducing symptoms. It was most beneficial for those with “depression, HIV and kidney disease, in pregnant and postpartum women, and in healthy individuals.” Furthermore, greater improvement was associated with higher-intensity physical activity, the researchers noted.
This shows that physical activity “should be a mainstay approach” in managing such mental health conditions.
“Our review shows that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations, with some groups showing even greater signs of improvement…” Singh said, noting that “all types” of physical activities proved to be beneficial. “Importantly, the research shows that it doesn’t take much for exercise to make a positive change to your mental health.”
The study contributes to the body of work highlighting the benefits of physical impact, particularly on mental health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise may not be among the first things that someone with depression or anxiety would be motivated to do, but these activities can actually “make a big difference.” It helps by releasing “feel-good” endorphins and by shifting the individual’s focus away from their worries for a bit. It may also help boost one’s confidence and cope with the condition in a more positive way.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) physical activity guidelines for adults recommend 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Although it may sound daunting for some, they can begin even with just a little activity and work their way up. As the CDC noted, “some physical activity is better than none.”