• Monday, May 27, 2024

HEALTH

Exercise more effective than medication for managing mental health: Study

The study also shows that exercise interventions lasting 12 weeks or less were the most effective in reducing mental health symptoms

The study also found that higher intensity exercise was more effective for depression and anxiety (iStock)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

According to a new study by researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA), physical activity should be a primary strategy for managing depression.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, analysed 97 studies, 1039 trials, and 128,119 participants, making it the most extensive review of its kind to date.

The findings reveal that exercise is 1.5 times more effective than psychotherapy or popular medications for reducing symptoms of sadness, anxiety, and distress.

The study also shows that exercise interventions lasting 12 weeks or less were the most effective in reducing mental health symptoms, highlighting the quick impact that physical activity can have on mental wellbeing.

The benefits of physical activity for mental health were most significant among individuals with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, healthy individuals, and those diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 970 million people worldwide live with a mental disorder, with poor mental health costing the world economy approximately USD2.5 trillion annually, projected to rise to USD6 trillion by 2030.

In Australia, an estimated one in five people between the ages of 16 and 85 experienced a mental disorder in the past year. Dr Ben Singh, the lead researcher at UniSA, urges that physical activity should be given priority to better manage the growing incidence of mental health conditions.

Dr Singh points out that despite evidence supporting physical activity as a treatment for mental health, it is not widely adopted as a first-choice treatment.

Singh states that their review demonstrates that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations, with some groups experiencing even greater improvements.

The study also found that higher intensity exercise was more effective for depression and anxiety, while longer durations had smaller effects when compared to shorter and mid-duration bursts. The research shows that all types of physical activity and exercise, including walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga, were beneficial.

According to UniSA’s senior researcher, Prof Carol Maher, the recently published study is unique as it evaluated the effects of all types of physical activity on depression, anxiety, and psychological distress across all adult populations.

Maher believes that examining the studies in their entirety is a practical approach for clinicians to gain a better understanding of the evidence that supports physical activity in managing mental health disorders.

She hopes that this review will highlight the importance of physical activity, including structured exercise interventions, as a fundamental approach to managing depression and anxiety.

With inputs from ANI

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