Why exercise should be included in mental health treatment?

written by Meena Azzollini

mental health people exercising in a class


We all know that physical activity and exercise is good for us – for our physical and mental health.

Physical activity has been shown to improve mild to moderate depression and relive anxiety and stress. But most people with mental health problems are limited by their mood to exercise and don’t find the incentive to get moving.

52 per cent reported that their mood limited their involvement in any exercise and only 37 per cent reported that their MH providers discussed PA with them.

Researchers from Michigan State University and University of Michigan assessed the beliefs, barriers and preferences for physical activity (PA) among users of outpatient mental health (MH) services to understand whether they wanted to be more physically active and if they thought that exercise can help them improve their mood and anxiety.

Researchers questioned 295 patients receiving treatment at a mental health clinic about their belief, barriers and preferences for exercise and also asked them if they wanted their therapist to help them be more active.

85 per cent of the respondents said that they wanted to exercise more and 80 per cent believed that physical activity helped improve their mood and anxiety.

52 per cent reported that their mood limited their involvement in any exercise and only 37 per cent reported that their MH providers discussed PA with them.

Almost half the respondents expressed an interest in a one-time discussion about PA with many participants also wanting ongoing advice about PA from the MH provider.

Current exercise guidelines of at least 30 minutes five times week was not being met by more than half the respondents.

The study highlights the gap in mental health treatment programmes and the need for physical training for effective mental health outcomes.

Mental health providers and psychiatrists may not have the necessary training to provide exercise and fitness training but they can partner up with certified personal trainers or other exercise programmes which can be incorporated in the mental health treatment plan.

This will give mental health patients an opportunity to improve their mood, anxiety and depression symptoms.

Source: General Hospital Psychiatry

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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!