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Exercise & Mental Health

How Physical Activity Can Improve Your Mindset

Exercise and its benefits on our physical health are often talked about, from losing weight, improving cardiovascular health and increasing muscular strength. People also seek out exercise services to assist in relieving symptoms associated with musculoskeletal problems or chronic conditions. What is not spoken about as a benefit of exercise is the effect it can have on a person’s psychological health. Why is this important? Health is described by the World Health Organisation ‘is an overall holistic concept that includes physical, mental, social and spiritual health, not just the absence of disease’. So, by utilising a method of treatment that can help with several aspects of health, the question of why this is important answers itself. The primary condition we are talking about here is depression.

Depression currently affects over one million Australians and will be experienced by 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men during their lifetimes. Treatments for depression can vary depending on the severity of the condition, common treatment options that most searches will describe include:

  • Medication
  • Psychology/Counselling Sessions
  • Support Groups
  • Meditation/Yoga
  • Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

What exactly do we mean by the term ‘maintaining a healthy lifestyle’? Generally, it refers to following the recommended dietary guidelines and participating in a deliberate physical activity. Physical activity guidelines in Australia include 150mins of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise per week and 2-3 sessions for resistance training each week. 

Now many people can be sceptical when someone tells them that exercise can help to reduce the severity of depression but as mentioned getting moving can help! These recommendations are also supported by research with exercise interventions prescribed for those living with depression.  Studies have shown a positive link between improved quality of life for those living with depression and participating in regular exercise, including a mixture of aerobic and resistance-based training. These studies compared exercise to ‘usual treatment’ including different medications, relaxation and counselling sessions. Overall exercise showed a favourable treatment option compared to drug-based interventions and no treatment at all.

Often depression is a comorbidity (a condition alongside another condition) and is not the primary reason for participating in exercise. As mentioned earlier people often seek exercise physiology services to improve musculoskeletal, metabolic, neurological conditions (e.g. back pain, diabetes, multiple sclerosis) and/or to improve overall physical health. By exercising with a qualified professional this will help to alleviate symptoms and develop strong foundations in order to move correctly. Not only that, it will help your primary condition but can also assist in improving your overall state of mind. 

Take home message: exercise can potentially help improve a person’s overall mindset, not just your physical health. Speaking with your GP about the benefits of exercise for overall health and what it can do for you is important. It is also really important to visit the right professional to advise an exercise program and here at Optimum Health Solutions, there are many accredited exercise physiologists across our branches to get you moving.

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