Exercise is more effective than counseling or many medications when it comes to managing depression
The discovery comes from research conducted by the University of South Australia
It shows that physical activity was associated with a 43 percent reduction in mental health symptoms
Exercise is considered particularly effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological stress
Physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than counseling or leading medications when it comes to managing and treating mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
The findings stem from research conducted by the University of South Australia (UOSA) in Adelaide, Australia and published in British Journal of Sports Medicine.
It shows that physical activity was associated with a 43 percent reduction in mental health symptoms.
Exercise is considered particularly effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological stress.
The data review, conducted by UOSA, included 97 reviews, 1,039 trials and 128,119 participants.
The positive effects of physical activity on mental health have been shown to be similar across a wide range of adult populations, including the general population, people with diagnosed mental health disorders, and people with chronic illnesses.
Among other key findings was that higher intensity physical activity was associated with greater improvement in symptoms.
However, the effectiveness of exercise interventions appears to decrease with longer duration of interventions.
Physical interventions lasting 12 weeks or less were most effective in reducing mental health symptoms, highlighting how quickly physical activity can make a difference.
Some exercise methods were also more effective than others in improving certain conditions.
For example, resistance exercise had the greatest effect on depression, while yoga and other mind-body exercises were most effective at reducing anxiety.
According to UOSA’s principal investigator, Dr. Ben Singh, the research results mean that exercise should be accepted as a primary approach for managing mental health problems, such as depression.
“We found that all types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercise such as walking, resistance training, Pilates and yoga,” Singh said.
“We are confident that if physical activity interventions were adopted, we would see a definite positive effect on symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.”
To read the full report, click here for British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The mental health benefits of exercise have been well documented for decades, and the health and exercise industry has consistently advocated for the use of physical activity in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Evidence of this can be found in previous issues of the magazine HCM. 2005 we reported on the Mental Health Foundation’s campaign raise awareness of the effectiveness of exercise in the prevention and treatment of mental health problems.
In 2010, a team from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London and academics from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Bergen found that people who participated in regular physical activity outside of work are not as likely to show signs of depression as those who do not.