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Exercise for Mental Health

09, Feb 2021 in Education & Resources

Sadly, 1 in 5 Australians will experience some form of mental illness. This can include anxiety, depression, psychotic, affective, personality and substance related disorders.

Regular exercise can help not only to improve mood, sleep and energy levels, but also helps to reduce stress & our overall risk of developing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. As well as being massive for maintaining our overall well being and in the prevention of certain mental health conditions, exercise can also be used as a powerful adjunct alongside other therapies for treatment of diagnosed mental illnesses.

What type of exercise is best?
Depending on the individual and their circumstances- this may be differ between individuals. The main thing- anything is better than nothing. Start small and build gradually. Studies have even shown that just 1 hour per week could be enough to prevent depression. Try a variety of exercise types and find something you enjoy. You may even choose to incorporate a mix of different types of exercise to bring about more variety into your routine.
Aerobic exercise and strength training have been shown to be particularly beneficial in helping to reducing the symptoms of major depression
Breathing and relaxation exercises including yoga are known to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
You may consider exercising outdoors for additional benefits (just ensure you wear a mask & socially distance!). Outdoor exercise has been shown to have additional benefits including increased energy revitalization & as well as reductions in anger, confusion, tension & depression compared to indoor based exercise.

It’s also important to note that those with mental illness are 2-3 times more likely to develop diabetes, and are almost 4 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease too. The great news is that exercise can be used to prevent and manage these!
For those with mental illness, regular exercise (prescribed and individualized by and AEP) has been proven to:

  • Decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness as well as reduce all- cause mortality risk
  • Assist in controlling weight gain which may occur due to certain medications individuals are prescribed to help manage a mental health condition
  • Prevent and manage other chronic disease that may occur alongside mental illness (type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease)

It’s also important to note that it may be more difficult for a person with mental health conditions to introduce exercise and maintain it as part of their regular routines. This may be due to motivation levels, psychosocial barriers and other complex factors. It’s important that they are supported by a qualified exercise professional (An Accredited Exercise Physiologist), who understands the interactions between physical and mental health, can assess and recognise their needs and tailor a suitable plan for them and are able to modify accordingly.
Remember that something is better than nothing and exercise is one this you can be in control of to help manage your mental health! Get in touch at exercise@yourbodyhub.com.au to learn how exercise and working with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help you.

If you or someone you know are struggling, resources are available
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or https://www.lifeline.org.au/

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