Why Exercise and Talking Therapy for your Mental Health?

Exercise has been found to be 1.5 times more effective than counselling or leading medications when it comes to managing and treating common mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety (British Journal of Sports Medicine).

The research shows that exercise was linked to a 43% reduction in mental health symptoms. This symptom reduction applied in multiple populations ranging from general population, to those with chronic disease.

Exercise is considered especially helpful in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress with higher intensity exercise associated with greater improvements in symptoms. Due to the impact of exercise on the nervous system, some types of exercise are best suited to improving particular conditions. 

Resistance training is most effective for reducing depression (nervous system activation) while mind-body exercise such as yoga is most effective at reducing anxiety (nervous system deactivation).

This is where exercise meets talking therapy as the effectiveness of exercise interventions seems to diminish over time. Exercise interventions that were 3 months or shorter, were the most effective at reducing symptoms. This can lead to over activity and increased amounts of exercise in an attempt to try to regain the initial benefits of exercise, which can in turn lead to further problems.

The difference between a medicine and a poison, is the dose.

In order to gain the most benefit from exercise for improved mental health, it would ideally run alongside talking therapy in order to address the underlying beliefs and mechanisms contributing to and maintaining the mental health issues. This in turn ensures long term reduction in mental health symptoms and a healthier relationship with exercise across time.

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