Feeling a little blue today? Go for a walk! Regular physical activity plays an important role in achieving and maintaining good mental health. Whether you are trying to beat the blues or treat more serious forms of mental illness, regular exercise or physical activity can help.
Poor mental health poses a significant public health burden in Australia where it is estimated that poor mental health is one of the leading causes of disability, accounting for an estimated 27% of the total years lost due to disability. Potentially, increasing physical activity levels could reduce medical expenditures for mental health conditions and increase the health and well-being of the population.
Participation in regular physical activity can assist in the prevention and treatment of common mental health problems. Ranging from minor depression to mental illness, regular exercise has been shown to have a positive effect in obtaining and sustaining good mental health. The positive effects of moderate levels of activity on people’s mood are well established. Whether engaging in activity simply distracts us from life’s problems, or has an actual biochemical effect is something of a research question, but the evidence of positive mood enhancement from moderate levels of physical activity is insurmountable.
Physical activity also has a beneficial effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to be as effective in relieving depression and reducing relapse rates as the use of antidepressants in some instances. Of course the positive effects of physical activity are offset by the fact that when we are down or blue we don’t feel like doing anything, yet doing something is likely the first step to feeling better. So, how about that walk?