Suggesting someone struggling with depression or anxiety should start exercising more usually comes across as patronizing
but a new study into the powerful impact exercise can have on our mental health suggests exercise should
generally be considered as the first option for treating depression and anxiety.
The scientific review, which looked at more than 95 scientific reviews encompassing 128,000 participants,
found physical activity provided positive impacts across all studies
and was 1.5 times more effective in some cases than counselling or medication in tackling depression.
“Our review shows that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations
with some groups showing even greater signs of improvement,” Dr. Ben Singh, researcher at the University of South Australia and lead author of the study, said in a press release
“Importantly, the research shows that it doesn’t take much for exercise to make a positive change to your mental health.
Researchers found exercise interventions which were 12 weeks or shorter had the most significant impact in reducing mental health symptoms.
This review doesn’t mean all a person needs to do to recover from depression is to pick up jogging — as it is an umbrella review
it provides a very broad look at a complicated subject. Types of exercise and an individuals’ ability to engage in them vary widely across populations.
But researchers say the fact that exercise had a measurably positive impact across so many studies supports
the idea that it should be considered seriously as a therapeutic intervention prescribed to patients
“Physical activity is known to help improve mental health,” Singh said. “
“Yet despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment.”
A scientific review is when researchers take a broad look at the existing scientific literature on a topic in order to create a general understanding of the research landscape.
This study is an umbrella review, which means it evaluates several scientific reviews to get an overall perspective on the topic.
The review looked at 97 other scientific reviews, including 1,039 trials with 128,119 total participants.
Studies were selected to be included in the review if they looked at adults reporting mental health issues and physical activity as an intervention.