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Exercise Improves Mental Health: Evidence is Crystal Clear

Physical activity has been known to improve mental health for some time, yet despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment. Lead researcher Dr. Ben Singh from the University of South Australia recently conducted a review of the evidence on this subject and published the findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The review included 97 reviews, 1,039 trials and 128,119 participants, making it one of the most comprehensive studies to date.[0]

The review found that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations, with some groups showing even greater signs of improvement. Specifically, exercise interventions that were 12 weeks or shorter were the most effective at reducing mental health symptoms, highlighting the speed at which physical activity can make a change.[1] People with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, healthy individuals, and those diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease all experienced the greatest benefits. All types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercise such as walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga.

The review also found that it does not take much for exercise to make a positive change to one’s mental health. The World Health Organization has reported that nearly 970 million people worldwide suffer from a mental disorder, which accounts for one in every eight people.[1] It is estimated that the global economy loses approximately $2.5 trillion annually due to poor mental health, a figure that is anticipated to increase to $6 trillion by 2030.[0] Estimates suggest that 20% of Australians aged 16-85 have experienced a mental disorder in the past year.[2]

Exercise not only improves mental health, but it also comes with other health benefits such as cancer growth reduction, cognitive decline prevention and even life longevity. Regular physical activity can also ward off cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, and can strengthen bones and muscles.[3]

The take-home message is clear: the evidence is crystal clear that exercise is good for your mental health. People who have been diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease, pregnant and postpartum women, people in good health, and people with depression experienced the greatest benefits. All types of physical activity, including aerobic exercises like walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga, were beneficial. It does not take much for exercise to make a positive change to one’s mental health.

0. “Study Shows Exercise Is a More Effective Solution for Mental Health Management than Medication” Sportskeeda, 25 Feb. 2023,

1. “Is physical activity more effective than medication for fighting depression?” Malay Mail, 25 Feb. 2023,

2. “Exercise More Effective Than Medicines to Manage Mental Health” Neuroscience News, 26 Feb. 2023,

3. “Mental health: Exercise is 1.5 times more effective than medication or counseling, study claims”, 26 Feb. 2023,

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