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Physical Activity Interventions Proven to Significantly Reduce Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Physical activity is widely known to help improve mental health, yet despite the abundance of evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment. A review conducted by the University of Birmingham revealed 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.[0] Higher intensity exercise had greater improvements for depression and anxiety, while longer durations had smaller effects when compared to short and mid-duration physical activity.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, showed that exercise interventions which were 12 weeks or shorter had the most significant impact in reducing mental health symptoms.[1] People with depression, pregnant or postpartum individuals, and those with HIV or kidney disease experienced the greatest advantages.[2]

A second experiment from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine found that patients with mental or physical illness were able to successfully adhere to exercise regimes, resulting in decreased suicide attempts.[3] Exercise impacts mental health through multiple pathways, with short and long-term effects, including endorphins and dopamine released in the brain.

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.”[4] The study, published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, showed that after performing a mentally challenging task, an individual will find physical exercise to be more difficult.[5]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week. Weekly physical activity close to or under 150 minutes showed the most beneficial health impacts, as opposed to exercise beyond 150 minutes weekly which showed diminishing health impacts. 30-60 minute exercise sessions are most effective, making physical activity a front-line approach for mood and chronic health problems.

0. “Physical Activity Cuts Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, Distress” Tyler Morning Telegraph, 16 Mar. 2023,

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

2. “The Art and Science of Fitness | Movement and mental health: The link is clear” Hindustan Times, 15 Mar. 2023,

3. “Exercise Decreases Suicide Attempts in Those With Mental and Physical Illness” Neuroscience News, 16 Mar. 2023,

4. “Mental Fatigue Can Impair Physical Performance” Neuroscience News, 13 Mar. 2023,

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

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