Exercising could be more effective than medication in managing depression and anxiety

28 February 2023
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by Madan Thapa
Madan Thapa

Madan Thapa

Madan S Thapa is a healthcare consultant and also a seasoned pharma editor, with over 10+ years...

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Physical activities and exercise help in boosting mental health. This much is known. But are they more effective than medication? 

A new, comprehensive study from the University of South Australia says it is. Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study examined the effectiveness of physical activities to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress. Over 128,000 participants, which included a mix of healthy adults, people with mental health disorders or various chronic diseases, were part of the research, which concluded that exercise interventions lasting for a duration of 12 weeks or less were extremely effective in alleviating mental health symptoms. The study also noted that apart from participants who lived with depression, women who were pregnant or postpartum, people with kidney disease, and HIV-positive individuals demonstrated the most 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 exercise such as walking, resistance training, pilates, and yoga,says Dr Ben Singh, lead researcher.

Exercise keeps you fit in body and mind

The study concluded that physical activity must be utilized as a mainstay approach for managing depression, anxiety, and distress.

Studies have previously shown the benefits of exercise for not just the body but also the mind. A 2018 US study published in The Lancet journal, showed that people who exercised for about 45 minutes for three to five times a week experienced the most benefits. People who engaged in physical activities ranging from something as simple as household chores or lawn-mowing to intense workouts at the gym experienced an additional 1.5 days of good mental health. 

Exercise may not be a cure but it can work wonders. Why not go for that short walk now, then?