How will exercise help my mental health?

Recent research has shown the significant link between regular exercise and improvements in mood. Exercise is now becoming commonplace in the treatment of mental health conditions such as Depression and Anxiety. There are multiple suggested mechanisms as to how exercise has such a strong relationship with mood:

  • Exercise releases “feel-good” chemicals in the brain called Endorphins, Serotonin and BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). These chemicals create a sense of “euphoria” and clarity in the brain.
  • Exercise improves sleeping patterns, increases energy levels and reduces stress.
  • Exercise can improve self-efficacy and confidence.

Common medications for mental health conditions such as Depression often have the side effect of weight gain. Therefore, exercise is vital in the treatment of these conditions to ensure obesity-related co morbidities are not developed.

What type of exercise should I do?

Exercise levels that meet the recommended guidelines for Australians (150 minutes of light to moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week) have shown to reduce the symptoms of depression and improve mood. It is also recommended to participate in resistance exercise training 2-3 times per week.

When choosing specific aerobic and resistance exercises, it is important to choose something that you enjoy doing, as it is much more likely to become part of your regular routine. Aerobic activities can include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or rowing, whilst resistance exercises range from weight lifting to activities such as Pilates, Yoga and martial arts. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can work with you to find the right exercise to suit your personal situation.

Is there anything I should be wary of?

If you have any co morbidities such as metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory or neurological conditions, it is important to consult your GP and an Accredited Exercise Physiologist before beginning an exercise program to ensure you will not be placed at risk.

It is also important to begin exercising at a low intensity, especially if you have been inactive for a long period beforehand. If you are struggling to find the motivation to begin a regular exercise routine, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help get you on the right track for success.