Mental health had been a concern even before the pandemic. In many countries, this long-neglected aspect of healthcare is considered taboo. Research is still on as to how we can equip ourselves with skillsets to cope with stress. Experts recommend positive distractions like a change of scene, tuning in to music, reading, indulging in hobbies, acquiring a new skill or being in the company of bright minds. Medicine, though considered a last resort, becomes inevitable when anxiety leads to poor sleep patterns. And when nothing works, you can’t but dial a shrink.
A study from the University of South Australia has recommended exercise as the best tonic to cure depression. It claims that exercise is ‘1.5 times more beneficial than psychotherapy’. The British Journal of Sports Medicine has published a review based on 97 studies, which included 1039 trials, and 1,28,119 participants, the most extensive research in this field.
The research concluded that pregnant and postpartum women, people diagnosed with HIV and kidney diseases, and those with acute depression benefitted a great deal from exercise.
Citing data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the research highlighted that one in every eight people worldwide suffers from mental disorders. Furthermore, it says that poor mental health costs the world economy approximately $2.5 trillion each year, which is estimated to rise to $6 trillion by 2030. In Australia, approximately one in five people between the age group of 16 and 85 have suffered mental disorders in the past 12 months.
Senior researcher UniSA’s Prof Carol Maher was quoted as saying, “Examining these studies as a whole is an effective way for clinicians to easily understand the body of evidence that supports physical activity in managing mental health disorders. We hope this review will underscore the need for physical activity, including structured exercise interventions, as a mainstay approach for managing depression and anxiety.”
UniSA researcher Dr Ben Singh has questioned why physical exercise, despite a proven track record of healing mental disorders in a natural way, isn’t the first-choice treatment. She has asked, “Physical activity is known to help improve mental health. Yet despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment.
“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.
“Higher-intensity exercise had greater improvements for depression and anxiety, while longer durations had smaller effects when compared to short and mid-duration bursts. We also found that all types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercises such as walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga.”
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