A recent study from the University of South Australia has revealed that exercise is more effective in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety than psychological sessions, antidepressant medications, and behavioural therapy.
If you doubt the power of this study, you should know that it is the most comprehensive of its kind. The British Journal of Sports Medicine published the study’s report, which included 97 systematic reviews, 1,039 trials, and over 128,000 participants.
Sports that treat depression and anxiety Psychological treatment methods vary among countries. American guidelines recommend consultations and medications as the primary approach to treatment. In contrast, Australian clinical guidelines suggest lifestyle changes first, such as adopting a healthy diet, exercising, and regulating sleep patterns, before considering medication.
The Australian healthcare system bases its strategy on hundreds of research studies examining physical activity’s impact on depression and anxiety. Through an extensive analysis of current research, they concluded that physical activity should be regarded as the first-line treatment for individuals experiencing mental distress, surpassing the effectiveness of medication.
The researchers in the new study explained vital points that may help individuals develop a plan involving time, effort, and the nature of physical activity. It’s important to note that this is the first study to assess the effects of all physical activity on depression, anxiety, and mental disorders.
High-intensity exercises were found to have a more significant positive effect on depression and anxiety. However, all types of physical activity and sports, including aerobic exercises like walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga, were beneficial. Each mark was associated with different psychological and physiological mechanisms. For instance, high-intensity resistance training substantially impacted individuals with depression, while yoga, meditation, and stretching exercises were more effective in reducing anxiety.
Longer-duration activities had less pronounced effects compared to shorter and moderate-duration exercises. This means that individuals experiencing mental health problems do not need to commit to intense and prolonged exercise to achieve maximum therapeutic benefits. Just 15 minutes a day for 12 weeks can positively change their mental well-being.
It’s important to emphasize that the researchers did not suggest excluding medication and medical consultation. They proposed that physical activity should be integral to the treatment plan.
How to start your treatment plan? According to Professor of Mental Health at the University of Kentucky, Boadie W. Dunlop, in a report published by Healthline, finding something that motivates you is recommended. You shouldn’t feel pressured to engage in any specific type of exercise. Instead, ask yourself what you want to achieve, whether it’s reducing your time worrying, improving your focus, or losing weight. Then, set goals based on your motivations.
Harvard University’s website published a report on the lack of motivation for individuals with depression. Michael Miller, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, advised starting with small steps and easy exercises that can be easily integrated into your daily routine, such as 5 or 10 minutes before bedtime or after waking up. Once it becomes a consistent routine, gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercises. Miller noted that any form of physical activity, such as taking a short walk, is beneficial. It’s important to establish a regular schedule as it can help the individual feel more stable and confident.
If financial constraints or physical ailments prevent you from starting a new sport, Mayo Clinic suggests identifying and analyzing your obstacles. Feeling self-conscious about your body, you may prefer exercising at home. If you fear failure, find a friend to exercise with who can support and motivate you. If you can’t afford exercise equipment, engage in free activities. As the saying goes, “The best exercise is the one you can do.”
In conclusion, physical activity has been proven to be a powerful and accessible tool in treating depression and anxiety. Incorporating exercise into your treatment plan alongside medical consultation is recommended to achieve optimal mental well-being.