University of South Australia researchers are calling for exercise to be a mainstay approach for managing depression as a new study shows that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than counseling or the leading medications.
Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the review is the most comprehensive to date, encompassing 97 reviews, 1,039 trials and 128,119 participants. It shows that physical activity is extremely beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress.
Specifically, the review showed that exercise interventions that were 12 weeks or shorter were most the effective at reducing mental health symptoms, highlighting the speed at which physical activity can make a change. The largest benefits were seen among people with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, healthy individuals, and people diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease.
According to the World Health Organization, one in every eight people worldwide (970 million people) live with a mental disorder. Poor mental health costs the world economy approximately $2.5 trillion each year, a cost projected to rise to $6 trillion by 2030. In Australia, an estimated one in five people (aged 16–85) have experienced a mental disorder in the past 12 months.