What Type of Exercise Is Best for Mental Health?

What Type of Exercise Is Best for Mental Health?

It’s well established now that exercise is not just good for physical health, it’s also extremely good for mental health.

Exercise is a stress buster and anti-depressant.

Exercise is also a mood enhancer meaning it promotes and boosts positive emotions like happiness!

So, if you want LESS stress and anxiety and MORE happiness and joy then get moving! But what type of exercise is best? Well, I’d say whatever type you enjoy but if you’d like to read more then …

via the Greater Good by Kira Newman

When you head to your weekly yoga class or lift weights at the gym, you’re doing something good for your physical health: getting more fit today, and so protecting your body into the future.

What you may not always think about, though, is that you’re also protecting yourself from anxiety and depression—about as much as you would be if you were going to therapy or taking medication. At least that’s the conclusion of a very large new study that synthesizes decades of research on exercise and mental health.

The study doesn’t just provide this key insight—in fact, the researchers were also able to identify what kind of exercise and how much of it is best for mental health.

How body supports mind

Researchers analyzed the results from more than 1,000 randomized controlled trials—one of the strongest types of studies. These experiments, with over 128,000 participants, had compared exercise to standard treatments like simply learning about fitness or getting help setting goals.

The participants engaged in a variety of physical activities, from yoga and tai chi to aerobics and dance to strength training. Some people had various health conditions, while others were suffering from depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In the original studies, they or their clinicians rated their symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress before and after the exercise program or treatment. 

The results suggested that exercising helped people reduce their depression, anxiety, and distress even more than usual treatments.

“Physical activity can be an effective treatment for mental health problems,” says Ben Singh, lead author and research fellow at the University of South Australia. He thinks it works in several ways: by releasing endorphins and boosting our mood, improving sleep, reducing stress, supporting self-esteem and confidence, and making us feel accomplished and purposeful. 

The findings suggest that exercise is particularly helpful in certain situations. While the type of exercise didn’t matter, people got more mental health benefits out of higher-intensity exercise. If you’re doing something that makes you breathe hard, in other words, that’s a good sign. 

And it seems like you don’t have to exercise obsessively to see benefits; less than 2.5 hours per week was actually better than more. The sweet spot was four to five sessions per week—not every day, but most days. Workouts don’t have to be long; there was no difference between 30-minute workouts and hourlong ones. The researchers suggest that this moderate amount of exercise may feel more manageable, so it doesn’t become a burden in people’s lives.

The benefits of exercise might not be immediate, says Singh, but they should show up within weeks or months. Beyond that, the longer people engaged in exercise, the less beneficial it became for their mental health. This may be because they were sticking to the program less, due to waning motivation or, perhaps, injury. It could also be because the exercise itself began to feel less novel and more repetitive.

Depending on what you’re dealing with in your life, you may be a better candidate to benefit from exercise. In this study, the groups who saw the biggest reductions in depression were healthy people, as well as those with depression diagnoses, kidney disease, HIV, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The groups who saw the biggest reductions in anxiety were those with anxiety disorders or cancer. It’s possible, the researchers suggest, that these people may have had more room for improvement in terms of their mental health.

An exercise prescription

If exercise is so helpful for feelings of depression and anxiety, why aren’t doctors prescribing it more? In the United States, the researchers explain, exercise, sleep, and diet changes are considered “complementary alternative treatments” if therapy and drugs don’t work. But in other countries, such as Australia, these lifestyle factors are addressed earlier on…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE