Getting your head around exercise: Exercise and Mental Health

Getting your head around exercise: Exercise and Mental Health

1 in 5 Australian’s aged 16-85 experience mental illness every year, this is the highest figure in 10 years. We often overlook our mental health when we think about being ‘healthy’, but the truth is, you can’t have good physical health without having good mental health. 

Mental illness is associated with lower levels of physical activity and poor diet. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, people living with mental illness are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from diabetes, 4 times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and more likely to be overweight or obese, and suffer from back pain.  

HOW CAN EXERCISE HELP?

Exercise has shown to be as effective as medication in managing mild depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder, as well as an important adjunct in major depressive disorder. The benefits of exercise are not limited to anxiety and depression, but to a wide range of psychological disorders. 

Exercise increases blood flow to areas of the brain responsible for motivation, mood, fear response and memory, it also boosts the feel-good chemicals in your brain – endorphins and serotonin. Exercise also provides distraction and offers an opportunity for social interaction which helps to address social withdrawal which is often

associated with anxiety and depression. The result is reduced depression and anxiety, improved mood and improved mental health. 

Other benefits of exercise include:

·      Improved sleep quality – good sleep helps with mood regulation 

·      Improved self-esteem 

·      Improved sense of control and coping 

As well as the physical benefits:

·      Improved cardiorespiratory fitness 

·      Reduced risk of chronic disease i.e. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, dementia 

·      Weight management 

WHAT TYPE OF EXERCISE, AND HOW MUCH?

Aerobic exercise such as jogging, brisk walking, swimming or cycling has shown the most benefit for improvements in mental health. 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on 3 days of the week is enough to promote these benefits. If you’re new to exercise, don’t worry, 30 minutes does not have to be continuous, it can be broken into intervals throughout the day! 

Lack of motivation and fatigue can make it hard to start and maintain exercise for anyone experiencing metal illness. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist is qualified to provided evidence-based interventions for individuals what are at risk of chronic disease, or for those who are living with complex medical conditions and injuries. 

References:

1.     Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2016. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 3. BOD 4. Canberra: AIHW.

2.     Health, 0., health, A., weights?, S., spondylitis, H., Pain, A., & marathon, H. (2019). How to Exercise Right for Your Mental Health – Exercise Right. Retrieved 3 October 2019, fromhttps://exerciseright.com.au/exercise-for-mental-health/

3.     health, 2., health, A., weights?, S., spondylitis, H., Pain, A., & marathon, H. (2019). The connection between physical and mental health – Exercise Right. Retrieved 3 October 2019, from https://exerciseright.com.au/the-fundamental-connection-between-physical-and-mental-health/

4.     link, 2., health, A., weights?, S., spondylitis, H., Pain, A., & marathon, H. (2019). Mental Health and Exercise – The vital link – Exercise Right. Retrieved 3 October 2019, from https://exerciseright.com.au/mental-health-exercise-vital-link

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