A new study says that working out for a small amount of time each week can have a transformative effect on your mental health.
We’re not going to reference that Legally Blonde scene, but we all know that exercise (endorphins, and all) boosts your mood, long after you’ve left the gym or rolled up your yoga mat.
But now, a ground-breaking study led by the Black Dog Institute, helmed by Associate Professor Samuel Harvey, PhD, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry has found that working out could help prevent depression, which is huge news considering the vast amount of people who suffer the debilitating effects of this illness.
According to research collected on the workout habits and instances of symptoms associated with anxiety and depression of 33,908 Norwegian adults over an 11-year period, getting sweaty for just one hour a week could prevent 12 per cent of all depression cases.
It’s not a huge percentage, sure, but it’s not insignificant by any means, and one hour out of a whole week in the name of mental health (plus better skin, a faster metabolism, and general wellbeing, for starters) is a good a reason as any to hit that HIIT session, if you ask us.
According to Well and Good, the study’s lead author, Associate Professor Harvey, PhD, said, “this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression [and] these findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise—from one hour per week—can deliver significant protection against depression.”
Interestingly, “undertaking regular leisure-time exercise was associated with reduced incidence of future depression” the same cannot be said of anxiety (although exercise has been proven in other instances to alleviate symptoms), and “the majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity,” so you don’t have to do anything wild – you just have to do something, which is attainable, practical advice all of us can heed.
Of course, if you or someone you know is battling with mental illness, the first port of call should be your GP (not your PT), who will be able to advise a correct treatment plan, which might involve therapy, medication, a balanced and, yes, regular exercise.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. In an emergency, call 000. For a correct treatment plan, book an appointment with your GP.