May 22 – 28 is Exercise Right Week.

Did you know that expertly prescribed exercise can be as effective as medicine?

This includes positive outcomes for your mental health.

Exercise can be as effective, if not more effective, than pharmacological intervention in alleviating depressive symptoms. Exercise can also make a huge difference in mood and needs to be a fundamental part of mental health treatment, even if only once a week.

The benefits of exercise (in particular walking) include a reduction in:

  • Knee pain and disability in knee arthritis by 47%.
  • Further complications in those with diabetes by 58%.
  • Risk of hip fracture in post menopausal women by 41%.
  • Symptoms in older patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50%.
  • Anxiety in different populations by 48%.
  • Depressive symptoms by 30% in low dose and 47% in increased dose.

Specifically for mental health, exercise can:

  • Improve cardio-respiratory fitness and reduce all-cause mortality risk.
  • Help control weight gain induced by medication.
  • Improve chronic disease outcomes (especially type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease).
  • Decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Improve sleep quality and increase self-esteem.

How to get started:

  • Start slowly and build up gradually e.g. if you have not been exercising at all, start with a 10-15 minute walk each morning, and gradually increase this to 30 minutes per day.
  • Set short-term realistic goals for exercising each week (e.g. 3 x 20 minute walks per week); plan to exercise at specific times of the day that fit in with your lifestyle and write your plan down.
  • Remember it can take time for the benefits of exercise to occur. Most exercise studies have shown a big reduction in depression after 8 weeks or more.
  • It can be helpful to work with an appropriately educated professional such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who understands the complexity of the challenges faced with mental health conditions and has the skills and knowledge to help manage your condition and any barriers you may face.

What is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP)?

An AEP holds at least a four-year degree (most often Masters Degree) specialising in the exercise and movement for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries. AEPs are different from other exercise professionals by the extensive knowledge, skills and experience in clinical exercise delivery and their ability to provide health modification counselling.

Find out more about how healthAbility’s AEP Tim Lathlean can help you to improve your health and wellness though physical activity and healthy lifestyle behaviours through Exercise Physiology.