In Australia, roughly 3 million people are currently living with depression or anxiety at any given moment. Depression is A disease that can cause individuals to feel down, overwhelmed, guilty, irritable, frustrated, lacking in confidence, unhappy, indecisive, disappointed, miserable, and sad. Physically, it can make people tired, run down, cause physical pain and discomfort, affect sleep, weight and overall health. It’s a disease that can affect the sufferer’s quality of life leading to diminished professional work and social life.
It is then no wonder why with such prevalence and severity, these diseases have a massive impact on the economy, community and families.
And its on the rise.
In 2017 over 3,000 people in Aus took their own life which was almost a 10% increase on 2016. Mostly young men but mental health problems never discriminate. They affect almost everyone and in one way or another are almost guaranteed to impact your life.
So, what can we do to address such an important issue? As you might know, organizations such as beyond blue, lifeline, the black dog institute, soldier on, and many more are doing magnificent work in try to prevent mental illness from having such a devastating impact and improving the quality of life of its victims.
Doctors and other medical professionals also do incredible work where they can provide counselling, medications and therapies to help all they can as well.
But there is one incredible prevention method AND medication that I feel is overlooked. Since you’re reading a blog written by an exercise and sports sciences student and personal trainer on a personal training companies’ website you may have already guessed what that intervention may be. That’s right; good old-fashioned physical activity.
Exercise as a treatment for depression is a cognitive-behavioural therapy which can be extremely effective. Even as effective as any current prescribed medications available and even more so when used in conjunction.
As a treatment it seems to work better for some than others, i.e. Those who were previously sedentary and worked on achieving frequent bouts of physical activity to eventually transition their sedentary habits into active ones.
A meta-analysis conducted by Schuch et al. (2016) found that the intervention of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (e.g. light, continuous jogging or bike riding) supervised by an exercise professional has a large anti depression like effect on those even suffering from major depressive disorder.
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Though, there are some major obstacles to this treatment. If someone is suffering from depression motivating them to get up and partake in continuous, frequent physical activity is going to be a challenge. It’s hard to achieve that level of behaviour change in an individual without any mental illness let alone someone who suffers from an illness that specifically may make them want to do the exact opposite. Hence why the guidance of a professional is ideal. Asking your doctor about exercise to aid in treating a mental health issue is the first step.
Physical activity guidelines in Australia are 2 ½ hours to 5 hours of accumulated moderate physical activity per week or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of accumulated vigorous physical activity per week. As well as minimum 2 day of resistance training. And remember that some physical activity is always better than none.
If you have any concerns regarding mental health or whether exercise may be the right treatment for you, consult your GP and they will be able to direct you from there.
Schuch, F.B., Vancampfort, D., Richards, J., Rosenbaum, S., Ward, P.B. and Stubbs, B., 2016. Exercise as a treatment for depression: a meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of psychiatric research, 77, pp.42-51.
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