Exercise is now recognised as an evidence-based, fundamental component of treatment for a range of mental illnesses.
Mental health researcher at UNSW Sydney, and Black Dog Institute Dr Simon Rosenbaum said that what was once viewed as ‘just’ a distraction from negative thoughts, the understanding of the relationship between exercise and mental health has evolved in recent years.
Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is marking World Mental Health Day by encouraging all Australians to engage in some form of physical activity to both protect and significantly benefit their mental health.
“The relative risk of death is estimated to be 2.2 times higher in people with mental disorders compared to the general population and this is largely due to chronic physical health problems that are often associated with mental illness,” an ESSA spokeswoman said.
“Physical inactivity is the cause of approximately nine per cent of premature deaths worldwide, with people experiencing a mental illness being particularly vulnerable.
“Even one workout a week is known to have important, protective benefits for those living with mental health conditions like depression,” she said.
Exercise should be seen as a ‘tool in the tool belt’ for people living with mental illness and as a strategy for helping to manage symptoms, ESSA chief executive officer Anita Hobson-Powell said.
“At ESSA, we are committed to promoting the role of exercise interventions as a key component of a global strategy toward achieving a 50 per cent reduction in the life expectancy gap of people experiencing mental illness by 2032,” Ms Hobson-Powell said.
According to ESSA, it is not about what type of exercise is best, but about what works for the individual.
“Guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise at least five times a week, but it’s best to start small and build on that gradually,” a ESSA spokeswoman said.
To find out more about exercising right for mental health, visit the Exercise Right website.
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