‘Exercise is medicine’ campaign

A campaign by Exercise & Sports Science Australia to promote the positive impacts of regular exercise for everybody, and particularly those needing help with mental illnesses and depression is underway.

ESSA’s executive officer, Anita Hobson-Powell believes there is little knowledge of the impact exercise can have in helping those suffering from a serious mental health condition/mental illness, without worrying about the side-effects that more traditional pharmacological treatments may have such as dizziness, weight gain, fatigue and anxiety.

“Because exercise is an effective treatment for those experiencing depressive symptoms with little or no side effects, it should be part of the usual care a depressed person receives, either on its own or in combination with other therapies,” says Hobson-Powell.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 6.2 percent of people aged between 16-85 years will suffer from mood disorders such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia and bipolar affective disorder, about 7.1 percent of all women and 5.3 percent of men.

“Studies show that about 60 percent of people halve their depression score by exercising and that almost half stay that way for at least three months. 

“That’s an overwhelming response and when we’re talking about avoiding depression altogether, studies show that active people on average had nearly 45 percent lower odds of experiencing depressive symptoms than inactive people.”

“Most people will relate to feeling happier and more positive after a workout thanks to the natural release of endorphins when you exercise. 

“The combination of the psychological benefits of exercise such as improved self confidence, body image and self esteem and reduced anxiety or stress as well as the physical benefits such as strengthening of muscles, helping control body weight and blood pressure and better sleep patterns, supports the theory that exercise plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of depression,” says Hobson-Powell.

ESSA recommends that exercise programs are prepared by an accredited exercise physiologist to ensure a balance between aerobic activity and weight-lifting exercise, which studies show may be more effective for sufferers of depression.

• Exercise & Sports Science Australia is the peak professional body for exercise and sports science in Australia and provides national leadership and advocacy on key issues. 

It supports more than 3,500 members and the community through fostering excellence in professional practice, education, training and research.

More info: www.essa.org.au

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