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The Effects of Exercise on Mental Health

Updated: May 16, 2023

Regular physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improving overall mood (Craft and Landers, 1998). The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week for adults (Department of Health, 2014). A meta-analysis conducted by Schuch et al. (2016) found that exercise significantly reduced symptoms of depression across 35 randomized controlled trials, with the greatest benefits seen in studies that used aerobic exercise interventions. Similarly, a meta-analysis by Rebar et al. (2015) found that physical activity interventions were associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety, with the greatest benefits seen in studies that used moderate to vigorous intensity exercise interventions. In addition to reducing symptoms of mental illness, exercise has also been shown to improve overall mood and well-being. A study by Netz et al. (2011) found that a 12-week exercise program significantly improved mood and self-esteem in older adults. Another study by Stubbs et al. (2017) found that even a single session of moderate-intensity exercise was associated with improvements in mood and self-esteem in young adults. Overall, the evidence suggests that regular physical activity can have significant benefits for mental health, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improving overall mood and well-being. It is recommended that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week to achieve these benefits.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental ill health know that help is available. ACTS3 is a psychosocial rehabilitation organisation that provides a range of services to help individuals overcome mental health challenges and improve their overall well-being. Our team of trained professionals offers evidence-based treatments as well as social support and community-based programs. To learn more about our services and how we can help, email or call us at info@acts3.org.au or1300 290 379.

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