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Exercise – Medicine for Mental Health

The benefits of exercise on the physical state is well publicized; improving muscle mass, enhancing exercise tolerance, increasing bone mineral density, reducing blood pressure – the list goes on! But what if I said that targeted exercise can be prescribed to help improve the outcomes of people suffering from mental health issues? Today we discuss all things mental health and how Exercise Physiologists are key in the process of treating people who are suffering. #exerciseyourmind

What is Mental Health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Sadly, Australian’s suffer greatly from mental health issues. Here’s a few fast facts;

  1. One in five Australian’s aged in between 16 and 85 suffer from a mental illness every year

  2. 7.3 million Australian’s will be affected by mental health issues in their lifetime

  3. Every day at least 6 Australian’s will take their own life, with a further 30 attempting to do so

  4. Mental Health conditions are the leading cause of disability among people of working aged in developed countries

  5. Anti-depressant medication prescriptions have risen by 95% in a 10year period in between 2001 and 2011

  6. Mental health conditions have a higher predisposition to developing co-morbidities such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma and have a life expectancy of up to 15 years less than the rest of the population

Why Exercise?

Recent evidence has been emphatic in the support of exercise as a front-line treatment in helping manage and prevent mental health conditions, with research suggesting targeted exercise can be as effective as cognitive and pharmaceutical therapies! How can exercise help you ask?

  1. Exercise CAN improve sleep quality

  2. Exercise CAN decrease symptoms of fatigue and increased stamina

  3. Exercise CAN enhance sex drive

  4. Exercise CAN decreased symptoms of stress and anxiety

  5. Exercise CAN improve feelings of self-efficacy and self-esteem

  6. Exercise CAN offer opportunities to improve social and emotional well-being

  7. Exercise CAN help optimize important ‘feel good’ hormones such as serotonin

  8. Exercise CAN help mitigate the side effects (such as weight gain) of commonly prescribed medication

  9. Exercise CAN manage co-morbidities commonly associated with mental health conditions

What can’t exercise do? (insert thinking emoji)

Exercise sounds great, but where do I start?

30 minutes of exercise per day is a great starting point! It’s important that when exercising, we increase our breathing rate to get the full benefit. If 30 minutes of continuous exercise is too much, try breaking it up into smaller, more manageable periods such as 2 x 15 minute sessions. If you find exercise boring, try doing it with a friend or family member. Your local gym or council may additionally run classes that might make exercise more enjoyable!

Having trouble getting started? See an Exercise Physiologist!

Exercise Physiologists are experts in managing those with chronic health problems such as mental health conditions. EP’s provide targeted exercise therapy taking into consideration your lifestyle, exercise capacity and any other conditions you may have. EP’s also specialise in creating on-going behaviour change which can increase the likelihood of eliciting long-term positive results. Being allied health professionals, EP’s can accept referrals from GP’s for those who suffer from on-going mental health conditions.

Take your daily dose of medicine and #exerciseyourmind today!

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