The Influence of Exercise on Mental Health

With changes in lifestyle, an increasing of the adult population has an anxiety disorder that necessitates some form of treatment. The current interest in prevention has heightened interest in exercise as an alternative to traditional interventions such as psychotherapy or drug therapies.

I have seen several cases of depression over the last few years. This number is on the rise and more prevalent amongst youngsters.

We all know that exercise can improve your physical health, but I have observed that it has more intangible benefits like that of mental health.

The scary truth about depression is that people don’t realize or see the signs of it until it has advanced quite a bit. I have experienced that it all starts with a single low moment in our lives and then progresses to depression. A lot of people believe that the only solution is anti depressant medication. Well, while on one hand they do work, it is better to see those signs in the early stages and take charge and control it before it even reaches a stage where you have to take medication.

I have worked with several people who have been on medication and I have managed to get them off it over a period of time using various exercise programs.

Analyses show that the larger effects of exercise on anxiety reduction are shown when:

  1. The exercise is “aerobic” (e.g., running, swimming, cycling) as opposed to non aerobic (e.g., strength-flexibility training)
  2. The length of the aerobic training program is at least 10 weeks and preferably greater than 15 weeks, and
  3. You have initially lower levels of fitness or higher levels of anxiety.

The antidepressant effect of exercise begins as early as the first session of exercise and persists beyond the end of the exercise program. These effects are also consistent across age, gender, exercise group size, and type of depression inventory. Exercise was shown to produce larger antidepressant effects when:

  1. The exercise training program was longer than nine weeks and involved more sessions
  2. Exercise was of longer duration, higher intensity, and performed a greater number of days per week

It has been found that exercise decreased depression more than relaxation training or engaging in enjoyable activities. Exercise used in combination with individual psychotherapy or exercise together with drug therapy produced the largest effects. Thus, since exercise is cost effective, has positive health benefits, and is effective in alleviating depression, it is a viable adjunct or alternative to many of the more traditional therapies.

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