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Exercise Can Significantly Improve Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, and Psychological Distress

Exercise is an effective way of treating depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, according to new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The systematic review examined more than 1,000 trials on physical activity and its effects on mental health and found that even short-term exercise can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress.

In the study, researchers looked at 97 reviews and over 128,000 participants to assess the influence of exercise interventions.[0] They found that programs that lasted 12 weeks or shorter tended to reduce mental health challenges the most. The greatest advantages were witnessed in individuals suffering from depression, those who were expecting or had recently given birth, as well as those living with HIV or kidney disease.

The team pointed out that brisk walking had a higher benefit than simple walking.[1] Exercise periods of six to 12 weeks had a much more significant impact on alleviating symptoms than shorter exercise durations. It was thus concluded that sustained exercise is essential for improved mental health.[1] They also noticed that more intense physical activity leads to greater improvements in symptoms, but the effectiveness of exercise diminished with longer-duration interventions.[2]

Lead author Dr. Chris Ring said: “We know that the brain plays a part in physical performance, but the specific effects of mental fatigue have not been well understood.”[3]

Exercise has been highlighted as an essential element in the control of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress as indicated by the results. When it comes to managing mental health conditions, exercise can be an effective tool; however, it is important to seek the help of a healthcare professional in order to create a comprehensive treatment plan, rather than attempting to tackle the issue on one’s own with a new exercise routine.[4]

It is not suggested that jogging should be the go-to solution for everyone with depression, as people may react differently to different types of physical activity. Research suggests that exercise should be taken seriously as a potential therapy, as the positive impacts of exercise have been seen across a number of studies.

Exercise is well known to be an effective adjunctive treatment for depression. Our new research highlights the importance of exercise in managing these conditions. Those with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, those diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease, and those in good physical health but with mental distress all experienced greater benefits. It is clear that physical activity should be a mainstay approach in the management of depression, anxiety and psychological distress.

0. “Exercise Benefits Mental Health, According to Major Research” Runner’s World, 13 Mar. 2023,

1. “Exercise More Effective For Depression Than Counseling: Study” Medical Daily, 13 Mar. 2023,

2. “Physical activity should be considered as front-line treatment for depression: scientific review” KTVZ, 12 Mar. 2023,

3. “Mental fatigue impairs athletic performance •”, 13 Mar. 2023,

4. “Exercise Is Even More Effective Than Counselling or Medication for Depression” Neuroscience News, 12 Mar. 2023,

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