By Duke Autret, Myotherapist
Exercise has long been touted as a means of promoting physical health, but recent scientific findings suggest that it may also be one of the most effective therapies for mental health. For those of us who are frequently trapped in our chairs, offices, home office, cars, and then the ‘comfy’ chair in front of the tele, these recent findings will validate what we’ve known we need to do!
A new research paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has provided compelling evidence for the benefits of exercise therapy for treating depression and anxiety, suggesting that it may be more effective than other commonly used interventions such as medication and psychotherapy.
The study, which analysed data from over 1,000 individuals with depression and anxiety, found that exercise therapy was associated with significantly greater reductions in symptoms than other interventions, such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Participants who engaged in regular exercise showed a 26% reduction in symptoms of depression and a 20% reduction in symptoms of anxiety, compared to those who received medication or psychotherapy alone.
But why is exercise therapy so effective for treating depression and anxiety?
Studies have shown that exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters that help to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. In addition, exercise can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression and other mental health conditions.
Exercise also promotes the growth of new brain cells and improves connectivity between brain regions. Additionally, exercise can help individuals to develop a greater sense of control over their bodies and their lives, which can be empowering and boost self-esteem.
A little for a lot
And according to a recent article in ScienceAlert, another large-scale study of nearly 50,000 people showed that exercise is the most effective treatment for depression, with a 43% reduction in symptoms compared to other treatments such as medication and therapy.
Exercise also has the added benefit of being a low-cost, low-risk intervention that can be easily integrated into most people's lives. Even small amounts of exercise, such as a 10-minute walk or a few minutes of stretching, have been shown to have benefits for mental health. And for those who are able to engage in more vigorous exercise, such as running or weightlifting, the benefits may be even greater.
What does this all mean?
Of course, exercise therapy should not be seen as a replacement for other treatments for mental health conditions, such as medication and therapy. However, it may be a valuable addition to a comprehensive treatment plan, and one that has the potential to improve outcomes for many individuals struggling with depression and anxiety.
And the evidence is clear - exercise therapy is an effective and powerful intervention for promoting mental health. If you're struggling with depression or anxiety, consider incorporating regular exercise into your routine. Not only can it help to alleviate symptoms, but it may also improve your overall sense of well-being and quality of life.
While the ideal amount of exercise is still a matter of debate, the authors suggest that individuals should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, such as brisk walking or cycling, in order to achieve the maximum mental health benefits.
Working with people recovering from pain and injury, we know that even small amounts of physical activity can have significant benefits for mental health. So why not take a walk, go for a bike ride, or hit the beach, pool, or gym today? Your mental health will thank you!
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