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Exercise: The Best Medicine for Mental Health Issues?

A study suggests that exercise is more effective than medication for treating mental health issues.

Mental health affects 1 in 8 people worldwide, with costs to the world economy estimated to reach $6 trillion by 2030.[0] To combat this, researchers from the University of South Australia conducted a study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, to evaluate the effects of physical activity on depression, anxiety and psychological distress.

The study is the most comprehensive to date, encompassing 97 reviews, 1039 trials and 128,119 participants.[1] Evidence demonstrates that physical activity can significantly reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress. People with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, healthy individuals, and those diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease experienced the greatest advantages.[2]

The authors note that briefer exercise programs provide more benefits than extended regimens.[1] In addition, exercising provides advantages not found in medications, including lower costs, fewer negative effects, and extra benefits for physical health like maintaining a healthy body weight, strengthening the heart and bones, and aiding in cognitive function.

Engaging in frequent physical activity can result in better sleep quality, which is a fundamental element in managing depression and anxiety.[3] Psychological benefits, such as an increase in self-esteem and a feeling of accomplishment, are beneficial for those dealing with depression and can be obtained through this activity.[3]

Lead UniSA researcher, Dr Ben Singh, says physical activity must be prioritized to better manage the growing cases of mental health conditions.[4] “Physical activity is known to help improve mental health,” he said. In spite of the evidence, it has not been embraced as a primary treatment option.[5]

Apart from its biological effects, exercise can raise our self-esteem, enhance our sleep quality, and enhance cognitive functioning.[3] Exercising daily can have great impacts on our mental wellbeing. A treatment plan can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, such as exercising, eating healthily, and socializing, in addition to therapeutic and medicinal approaches.[6]

Daily exercise appears to be a better option than medication for those who are struggling with mental health issues. It may be more effective, have fewer side effects, and offer bonus gains for physical health. So get up and get moving – it may just be the best medicine for your mental health.

0. “Exercise may be more effective than medication for managing mental health” Dunya News, 4 Mar. 2023,

1. “How going to the gym can save you from depression” Pulse Nigeria, 7 Mar. 2023,

2. “Health News | Exercise More Helpful to Tackle Mental Issues Than Medication: Study” LatestLY, 3 Mar. 2023,

3. “Exercises that can change your ‘mental health for the better'” Geo News, 3 Mar. 2023,

4. “Exercise Can Help With Depression and Anxiety Even More Than Therapy or Medication, Study Finds” AOL, 3 Mar. 2023,

5. “Huge New Study Shows Why Exercise Should Be The First Choice in Treating Depression” ScienceAlert, 2 Mar. 2023,

6. “Exercise 1.5 times more effective than drugs for depression, anxiety” Medical News Today, 3 Mar. 2023,

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