Exercise is more effective than counseling or medication for depression!
The world is currently grappling with a mental health crisis, with millions of people reporting symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
The Importance of Exercise in Managing Mental Health Disorders:
Suffering from mental health disorders exacts a high toll on both the individual and society at large, with depression and anxiety being among the leading causes of health-related burdens. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation, with a significant increase in reported levels of psychological distress affecting up to a third of the population.
While traditional treatments such as therapy and medication can be effective in managing these conditions, a review of over 1,000 research studies examining the effects of physical activity on mental health issues published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that exercise is an effective way to treat mental health problems and maybe even more effective than medication or counseling.
Physical Activity for Mental Health: Findings from a Large-Scale Study:
In the study, 1,039 tests and 128,119 participants were included. It was found that engaging in various types of physical activity (such as brisk walking, weightlifting, and yoga) for 150 minutes per week significantly reduced depression, anxiety, and psychological distress compared to routine care (such as medication). The greatest improvement was observed in depression, kidney disease, pregnant and postpartum women, and healthy individuals, although clear benefits were seen for all populations.
Exercise: A More Effective Solution Than Medication or Psychotherapy for Mental Health:
The greater the intensity of exercise, the more beneficial it is. For example, running at a fast pace rather than walking at a moderate pace. And exercising for six to 12 weeks rather than a shorter period of time provides the most benefit. Long-term exercise is essential for maintaining improved mental health. Exercise is about 1.5 times more effective than medication or psychotherapy in improving mental health.
The conclusions of the research highlight the important role of exercise in managing depression, anxiety, and psychological distress. It is important to remember that while exercise can be an effective tool for managing mental health conditions, individuals with mental health concerns should work with a healthcare professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
A treatment plan may include a combination of therapies such as psychotherapy and medication, as well as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and lifestyle factors such as socialization. However, exercise should not be viewed as the sole solution but as a good option for managing mental health.
Why Exercise Helps Improve Mental Health:
Exercise is known to have both short-term and long-term effects on mental health through multiple pathways. The release of endorphins and dopamine during and immediately after exercise helps boost mood and alleviate stress in the short term. In the long term, exercise promotes the release of neurotransmitters, leading to changes in the brain that positively impact mood and cognition, reduce inflammation, and boost immune function. Regular exercise also improves sleep quality, a critical factor in managing depression and anxiety, and contributes to increased self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.
Exercise for Mental Health: except this, not any Alternative Treatment:
Exercise is an essential treatment for managing depression, anxiety, and psychological distress, according to recent research. While some clinical guidelines, like the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Guidelines, recognize the importance of exercise in treating mental health disorders, others, like the American Psychological Association Clinical Practice Guidelines, categorize exercise as an “alternative” treatment. This label may imply that exercise is not a conventional treatment or lacks sufficient evidence. However, exercise has a clear evidence base and should be considered a crucial part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Unfortunately, exercise is often under-prescribed in clinical settings because it is challenging to monitor and prescribe, and patients may be resistant due to a lack of motivation or energy.
Collaborating with Healthcare Professionals for Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment: The Role of Exercise:
While exercise can be a useful tool for managing mental health conditions, it’s crucial for individuals with such conditions to collaborate with a healthcare professional in developing a comprehensive treatment plan, instead of starting a new exercise routine on their own. A comprehensive treatment plan might involve a combination of lifestyle strategies, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and socialization, as well as treatments such as medication and psychotherapy. Exercise should not be considered a “nice to have” option, but rather a potent and accessible approach for managing mental health conditions. Furthermore, exercise is free and has numerous additional health benefits.
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