We've always heard about the importance of exercise to our mental health. But just how effective is it compared to medication and other techniques? Can you use physical activity as a first-choice treatment for depression?
A new study has found that physical exercise is, in fact, incredibly effective for reducing mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, and distress. Of all the mental health problems, people with depression stand the most to gain from exercising.
According to the study, physical activity is incredibly effective at managing depression, even 1.5 times more than counseling or medications.
That's amazing, given that depression costs the global economy up to 1 trillion USD yearly.
Physical activity is a pretty cheap technique, coming at almost no financial cost, as opposed to most other common treatment methods.
But although exercising is widely known to help improve mental health, most people don't use it as a first-choice approach.
This research shows how much you can benefit from physical exercise compared to counseling or using medication.
But here's even the most exciting part.
You don't have to engage in a high-intensity or long-duration workout to reap the benefits of exercise for managing your depression. "All types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercises such as walking, resistance training, Pilates, and Yoga," says the lead researcher Dr. Ben Singh.
However, "higher intensity exercise showed greater improvements for depression and anxiety, while longer durations had smaller effects when compared to short and mid-duration bursts." So you don't have to spend all day on your workout.
Now, imagine combining exercise with antidepressants and possibly counseling. The effects can be enormous. Besides, exercise interventions that are 12 weeks or shorter show the best results for reducing mental health symptoms in the study.
All of this reemphasizes what we have always known. Physical activity is highly beneficial for managing depression and other mental health concerns. But it shouldn't always take the back seat.
About 280 million people worldwide are battling depression. If you're one, consider adding physical activity to your treatment today. Remember, it could be as simple as doing some aerobic exercise or yoga.
More on the research here.