Improve your mental health? We’ve got an exercise class for that.
Did you know that exercise can have a positive effect on your mental health? According to Beyond Blue, it’s estimated one million Australians every year suffer depression, while a further two million struggle with anxiety.
Meanwhile, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a further 2.4 million of us suffer high levels of psychological distress.
Apart from making us feel bad, all are major health issues contributing to a range of chronic illnesses, poor diet, lack of sleep and use of drugs or alcohol.
COVID lockdowns and fears about an uncertain future have only exacerbated these issues and, in some cases, professional psychological help and medication is the best way to get relief.
However, since any mental health issue can make us feel we’re losing control, it’s good to also look at what we can do to help ourselves.
One of the best and proven solutions is exercise and the best exercise to improve your mental health is that which involves social contact and happens in a green space outdoors – which is exactly why we offer that prescription at refresh YOU find out what we do.
8 Reasons why outdoor group fitness can alleviate depression
- It increases the level of endorphins in the brain which have mood-lifting properties.
- It increases energy levels.
- It improves sleep.
- Joining a group will provide a social support network which will reduce loneliness.
- If it’s interesting and challenging it provides a distraction from worries
- It improves self-esteem as we achieve new goals and will provide a sense of happiness as we celebrate those goals with others.
- It increases a sense of control by allowing us to take an active role in our wellbeing.
- Group exercise with a caring trainer will keep us accountable and ensure we’re more likely to show up even when it feels hard.
Not surprisingly, scientists are extremely interested on the effects of activity on mental health and are so convinced of the benefits there have even been recommendations that psychologists should be prescribing exercise as part of their treatments. You can download the Black Dog Institutes worksheet on this subject at the following link. Exercise and Depression
What the scientists have discovered:
- 16 weeks of regular exercise has been found to be as effective as medication in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. 2
- People who never do any exercise have a 44 per cent greater chance of developing depression compared to those who exercise one to two hours a week. 3
- An increase in physical activity from inactive to three times a week has been found to result in a 20 per cent decrease in the risk of depression over a five-year period. 4
- A program of just two weeks exercise involving 60 volunteers with heightened anxiety showed significant improvements in participants. The researchers reasoned that the resulting heavy perspiration and increased heart rate that come with exercise are similar to the fight or flight sensation common in those with anxiety. “Exercise is in many ways like exposure treatment and people learned to associate the symptoms with safety instead of danger,” said researcher, Jasper Smits. 5
Read member Suzanne Mann’s story of her battle with depression and some of her ideas for turning around negative thinking in our blog.