The Benefits of Exercise in Treating Mental Health Issues
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Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health disorders in the world today. They can be debilitating, affecting a person’s ability to live a normal life and affecting their relationships with others. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that physical exercise can be an effective treatment for these disorders.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in both the short and long term. Physical activity has been shown to increase the availability of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are all implicated in mood regulation. Exercise also increases the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can provide a sense of well-being and reduce stress.
One study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association found that exercise was just as effective as antidepressant medication in treating major depressive disorder. The study followed 156 adults with depression for 16 weeks, assigning them to either exercise or medication. At the end of the study, both groups showed significant improvements in depressive symptoms, with no significant difference between the two groups.
Another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that exercise had a positive effect on anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder. The study followed 60 adults with GAD, assigning them to either a high-intensity exercise group, a moderate-intensity exercise group, or a wait-list control group. Both exercise groups showed significant reductions in anxiety symptoms compared to the control group.
Not only does exercise help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, but it can also help prevent these disorders from occurring in the first place. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing depression in adults. The study followed 7,000 people over 11 years, finding that those who engaged in regular physical activity had a significantly lower risk of developing depression than those who were inactive.
So how much exercise is needed to achieve these benefits? The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. This can include activities such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or running. Strength training exercises should also be incorporated at least two days per week.
Of course, it’s important to note that exercise alone may not be enough to treat severe cases of depression and anxiety. It should be used in conjunction with other treatments such as therapy and medication as recommended by a healthcare professional.
However, the benefits of exercise cannot be overstated. Not only does it improve physical health, but it also has a positive impact on mental health. It can help reduce stress, improve mood, and provide a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
In conclusion, physical exercise is a powerful tool for treating and preventing depression and anxiety. With numerous scientific studies supporting its effectiveness, it’s important to incorporate regular physical activity into our daily lives. Not only will it benefit our physical health, but it can also help improve our mental health and well-being.