Mental Health and Exercise*

Wednesday, 20 September 2017, By Sharon Chavez
It is a sad reality that each year 1 in 5 Australians will have experienced a mental illness. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2014-15 there were 4.0 million Australians who reported having a mental or behavioral condition. Still there is a poor understanding and acceptance of mental illness and it often goes undiagnosed and either untreated or poorly treated. 
Mental illness can have an impact on a person's cognitive, behavioral and social functioning. Those with a mental illness often struggle to engage in their regular work, social and physical activities to full extent which further impacts the illness as social isolation then often occurs. Mental illness includes anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and personality disorders. 
Why is exercise important? 
There is evidence that suggests exercise is an effective treatment method for people suffering from acute and chronic mental illness, with some studies suggesting that exercise is just as effective, if not more effective than pharmacological intervention in alleviating depressive symptoms. 
Some researchers suspect exercise can help with mental illnesses by increasing serotonin levels (the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants) Serotonin is commonly regarded as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance it also affects social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function. Endorphins are another chemical that is produced while you exercise, they act as analgesics similar to morphine, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence. 
Along with all the other great benefits, exercise can also help improve your confidence levels and increase your self-esteem. So why not make exercise a healthy habit and part of your daily routine. 
Things to Know 
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, you are NOT alone. Speaking up seems daunting and scary but there are a many great organizations that are there to support you (links below) 
Exercise can also help you reduce the risk of other illnesses like heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's disease 
Exercise can help improve your sleep 
Australian Government guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week. You can make up 30 minutes over the day by combining shorter 10-15 minute 
Practicing mindfulness while doing exercise also reduces your stress and improves your mental health. 
Beyond Blue- 
Headspace - 
Black Dog Institute - 
Life Line -  13 11 14 



*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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