Study Confirms Physical Exercise Should Be First Choice For Mental Health Treatment
Authored by Jennifer Marguilis via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
In a funk? Do you: a) reach for a bag of potato chips, b) call a friend, c) pop an extra anti-depressant, or d) head for the gym to sweat out the sadness?
For years, studies have shown that exercise is one of the best ways to treat a range of mental health issues. A new analysis of that whole body of research makes this clearer than ever.
This new study, which was conducted by a team of 13 Australian scientists, was published in February in the British Medical Journal’s British Journal of Sports Medicine.
As the researchers explored, pharmaceuticals are usually the first response to mental health issues worldwide, with lifestyle adjustments like exercise, sleep hygiene, and a healthy diet considered merely as complementary choices, at best.
Even when lifestyle changes are recommended, they are seldom prescribed to patients in treatment by medical doctors.
A Vast Evidence Base
In order to synthesize the evidence on the positive and negative effects of physical activity on depression, anxiety, and psychological distress in adults, the Australian researchers performed an “umbrella overview,” a comprehensive analysis of all the work that has been done on the subject to date.
The idea behind an umbrella review of this type is to try to quantify the strength of the signal.
One scientific study provides some direct evidence that a treatment is useful; but when hundreds of studies confirm each other, taken together, these studies more strongly suggest that a treatment or intervention may be widely effective and applicable.
Since so much research has been done in the field of exercise and mental health, the Australian team sought to examine the totality of the evidence.
To that end, they looked at nearly a hundred reviews, comprising over a thousand studies done, on over 100,000 participants. In other words, they conducted a “systematic [review] of systematic reviews, synthesizing a vast evidence base.”
Exercise Best Treatment for Depression
Mental health is often pushed to the fringe of health care, but half of all people experience some mental health distress at some point in their lives, and more than 10 percent of people worldwide are currently struggling with mental health.
Anxiety is the most common problem—and seems to be becoming more pronounced among children and younger adults—while depression poses the greatest burden to normal life function.
The Australian researchers discovered that exercise provided the best results when used for treating depression. More specifically, exercise was 150 percent more effective than pharmaceuticals or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
It was also better than psychological consultation or “talk therapy.” In fact, exercise was shown to reduce depressive symptoms by 42 to 60 percent, whereas talk therapy and pharmaceuticals only reduced symptoms between 22 percent and 37 percent.
Exercise was shown to be the best treatment for both anxiety and depression, even though pharmaceuticals are the most commonly recommended treatment for both.
Any Kind of Exercise Works
Every kind of exercise worked. The numerous studies looked at many types and schedules of exercise, and they all worked—doing any movement regularly (including dancing, walking, and yoga) was a big improvement over doing nothing.
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