Out of Australia, in connection with the University of Melbourne, comes an exhaustive review of the scientific literature regarding exercise and mental health. The reason for this effort is summarized in the following introductory statement, “In Australia, mental disorders are the third largest source of disease burdens after cancers and cardiovascular diseases, but the largest source of disability burden.” The study is published in The Journal of Exercise Physiology, August 2013, and found below are a few of the important conclusions from this review.
“There is a strong relationship between physical activity and mental health. Cross sectional studies show that regular physical activity is associated with better mental health and emotional well being.”
“Exercise is moderately effective for anxiety, though most studies have evaluated its effect in non-clinical settings.”
“The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists recommends that exercise may complement other treatments and be used as a stress management strategy to improve recovery, help prevent recurrences, to manage the side effects of some medications, and to improve lifestyle practices and overall health.” Authoritatively and well said, I must say.
Those of us who enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, can attest without hesitation to those conclusions. Science has demonstrated the same and now can explain many of the reasons why these effects exist. Yet, in practice in our society, it seems that the first and foremost course of treatment is prescribed and taken as a pill. Pills are easy. Lifestyle changes are not. Pills are quick. Lifestyle changes are not. Pills are scientifically derived substances that we can measure and test. Lifestyles do not have this ease of scientific testing.
In the context of today’s public forums, there is a much broader discussion taking place than ever before. There is more openness and accessibility to ideas and concepts. I believe that we know enough about exercise and its benefits that it merits a more significant role in the treatment of many of things that burden us as individuals and as a society.
We face a huge potential of depression related issues in our society with the aging of the population. If pills are our only source of treatment, we also face a massive assault of unwanted side effects. I believe that exercise can and should be the tip of the spear in dealing with these problems from a holistic perspective.
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