EXERCISE AS A PRESCRIPTION
Depression and anxiety are common psychiatric conditions seen among millions of North Americans. Treatment for these mental health issues have varied for decades, while experts try to figure out best practice. Thankfully, recently, physical activity has been among the treatment options for many of those who suffer. Exercise is also associated with improved physical health, life satisfaction and cognitive function.
In a article published by: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health in 2012, they reviewed numerous studies completed regarding exercise as a treatment for depression, and below is the summary.
“In summary, exercise appears to be an effective treatment for depression, improving depressive symptoms to a comparable extent as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Observational studies suggest that active people are less likely to be depressed, and interventional studies suggest that exercise is beneficial in reducing depression. It appears that even modest levels of exercise are associated with improvements in depression, and while most studies to date have focused on aerobic exercise, several studies also have found evidence that resistance training also may be effective. While the optimal “dose” of exercise is unknown, clearly any exercise is better than no exercise. Getting patients to initiate exercise —and sustain it – is critical.” (2)
The idea of sustained exercise is often the hardest part. Don’t get me wrong, starting something brand new is very challenging as well, but to continue through things that come up, like injuries, or family issues, or bad weather, is a whole other challenge.
In a study done by The Department of Health Sciences Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, a very interesting quote was used multiple times throughout. “There is no mental health, without physical health.In addition to improving the symptoms of depression, exercise also has the potential to reduce the significant cardio-metabolic risks associated with depression.”
We see it in many of our young athletes especially. At the CORE (no pun intended) of our values is “Confidence, Outwork, Resiliency, Excellence”. Two of these are directly related to mental well being and stability. Confidence and resiliency are regularly imprinted into our athletes, young and old. We aren’t too outward with the practice, but encouraging them to continue through some tough moments, and support them in their quest to finish a drill or exercise can lead to some very positive feelings about their ability to be successful.
Because, let’s face it. We all question our abilities at some point. Show me the most successful athlete, businessperson, teacher, lawyer, doctor, politician, and I will tell you 100% for sure that they have doubted themselves at many stages of their life and career.
The ones that find success, are the ones who have the ability to get through the tough moments and the failures. They have the tools and experience to know that if they keep working, or looking for other solutions and methods, that eventually success will happen…or it won’t. And this is the big one. What happens if you try, and try, and still fail? Then what?
You have the support of your teammates, gym-mates, family, to pick you up again. Studies have shown that a “positive sports experience can have beneficial emotional effects and increase self-esteem” (1).
This may not come as a surprize to you if you have had experiences like this. However, some folks have never been privy to such environments, and lack the first hand understanding of the positive and supportive nature of most teams or social groups associated with physical activity.
THE NEXT STEP
If you are a gym goer, or athlete, don’t be a snob. Invite someone with you next time, who may be new, or inexperienced.
If you aren’t an athlete or have never done any form of exercise before, it’s not that scary. Most people are very helpful and supportive. Take the first step and go for it!
If you are feeling down, and stressed or anxious, go for a walk, go for a jog, pick up some heavy stuff over and over again, grab a kettlebell and swing it, anything to get you sweating and breathing heavy. It’s going to suck the first few times you do it, no doubt, but you will get better at it, and you will start to see the physiological and psychological benefits of moving vigorously and with purpose.
(1) Biddle, S. J. (1993). Children, exercise and mental health. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 24(2), 200-216.