By Ken Reed

If you move your body, you’ll feel better — physically and emotionally. The research is undeniable.

According to a comprehensive new review of scientific research, physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than leading medications, or counseling efforts like psychotherapy, for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. The benefits were found in both healthy individuals as well as people with mental disorders or chronic diseases that can cause anxiety or depression.

Exercise is a wonder drug for human moods. It releases mood-enhancing chemicals like dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin, and the benefits can build up over extended periods of regular exercise.

“Physical activity has numerous benefits compared with psychotherapy and medications, in terms of costs and side effects and long-term health,” according to Ben Singh, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of South Australia, and one of the authors of the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. “Yet, despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment. Doctors and other medical professionals should consider prescribing exercise for patients experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, or other mental health concerns.”

It’s particularly notable that exercise doesn’t have the long laundry list of side effects that medications for anxiety and depression typically do because side effects are a primary reason that patients stop taking medications for anxiety and depression.

The exercise prescription is desperately needed in the United States. In a survey last fall, 27% of U.S. adults said they’re so stressed most days that they can’t function normally and three-quarters said stress had caused feelings of nervousness, anxiety, sadness, depression, fatigue or a headache at least once in the past month. Exercise, via sports participation or other forms of physical activity, effectively deals with all these unwanted conditions.

Scientists believe physical activity is the foundation of positive physical and mental health. However, most people struggle to find the motivation to move more. The key to increasing one’s physical activity is to pick activities that you like doing, whether that’s playing a particular sport, hiking, dancing or something as simple as gardening. Working in short bursts of mild exercise into your typical day is also helpful. For example, taking a short break from working at your desk every hour and going for a short stroll around the office or neighborhood.

It all adds up. A little movement is better than no movement.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.