Depression is known as the health killer of the 21st century. According to WHO statistics, the number of people suffering from depression worldwide has exceeded 350 million. About 2 million people in Taiwan suffer from depressive symptoms, of which about 1.25 million are severely depressed. Research from the University of South Australia found that regular exercise of a certain intensity can help relieve stress and promote mental health.
TAIPEI, TAIWAN (Merxwire) –Depression is known as the health killer of the 21st century. According to a WHO report, the number of people suffering from depression worldwide has exceeded 350 million. Survey data found that about 2 million people in Taiwan suffer from depressive symptoms, accounting for 8.9% of the total population. Among them, about 1.25 million people suffer from severe depression, which makes everyone have to pay attention to this issue. Research from the University of South Australia (UniSA) shows that regular exercise of a certain intensity can help improve the health hazards caused by high stress and mental illness. This research has been published in the authoritative journal “British Medical Journal” (BMJ).
Mental illness has a huge impact on modern people. Especially in the middle and late stages of COVID-19, the number of people suffering from depression and bipolar disorder is higher than before. The main reason is that the illness and isolation during the epidemic have left many people with indelible pain and loneliness. Problems derived from depression include loss of workability, suicide problems, and socioeconomic burdens. Among them, depression has become one of the top three causes of disability and has a profound impact on families and the social economy. Moreover, the risk of suicide among patients with depression is 20 times that of the general people, and about 15% of them will end their lives by suicide.
Ben Singh, a health expert at the University of South Australia, tried to find ways to improve depression and mental health. He analyzed 1,039 related studies, including 128,119 subjects including patients with mental illness, healthy adults, and patients with chronic diseases. The results found that “exercise” is more effective than conventional drug treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems, and the effectiveness is 1.5 times that of conventional therapy, and can also bring other health benefits.
Why does exercise help improve mental health? The main reason is that after exercise, the brain will secrete happy hormones, namely endorphins, and dopamine, which will bring a pleasant feeling. It can also boost your mood, relieve stress, and slow down the brain’s overreaction in the face of stress. Exercise also stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help adjust moods, boost immunity, reduce inflammation in the body, and aid sleep. Improved sleep quality can help maintain good thoughts and reduce psychological problems.
The study also found that improving mental health through exercise has the best effect on people from five groups, namely patients with depression, pregnant women, mothers of newborns, patients with kidney disease, and patients with AIDS. And the higher the intensity of exercise, the more obvious the improvement. For example, jogging has more obvious benefits for mental health than walking. If you can continue to exercise for 6 to 12 weeks, your mental state will be healthier than those who do not exercise or exercise for a shorter period.
Clinical research has found that long-term exercise can help develop sound psychological quality and has at least 5 benefits in promoting mental health:
- Reduce depression: A study published in “The American Journal of Psychiatry” mentioned that exercising for at least one hour a week can reduce the risk of depression by 12%. It can also relieve symptoms of depression in 70% of patients.
- Reduce anxiety: Developing a regular exercise habit, will affect the amygdala in the brain that affects and governs emotions, reduce the frequency of anxiety, and have better relief effects.
- Improve self-confidence: From a psychological point of view, regular exercisers will make their posture and physical fitness closer to the ideal state they want, thus improving their self-confidence. When self-confidence is improved, a positive sense of self-identity will be generated and mental health can also be improved.
- Reduce loneliness: Team sports can provide everyone with a sense of belonging and interaction with others they need. It can reduce the feeling of loneliness and can also make life full of enthusiasm and vitality. The quality of life thus improves and contributes to healthy physical and mental development.
- Improve children’s behavior patterns: Research has found that developing exercise habits can change children’s behavior patterns, allowing them to learn teamwork, reduce fighting and aggression, and increase their sense of responsibility. Such training also contributes to long-term physical and mental development from childhood to adulthood.
Ben Singh, the leader of the study, reminds everyone that exercise cannot replace drug treatment, psychological consultation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. It can only be incorporated into daily treatment in a supportive role to help improve mental health. We cannot force patients with depression to exercise a certain frequency or time every week, because everyone’s physical status is different. They may feel insufficient due to the course of the disease or the influence of medications. Therefore, routine treatment can be combined with exercise to recuperate the body and mind.
Therefore, exercise has been listed as one of the measures to improve mental health in Australia and New Zealand, and the clinical guidelines of the American Psychological Association have listed it as a type of alternative treatment. From this, we know that exercise has a certain impact on mental health.
In addition to exercise, you should also pay attention to balanced nutrition in your daily life. Eating enough fruits and vegetables could replenish the B complex vitamins and vitamin C and help maintain positive thinking. You can also eat more fish and supplement fish oil. The DHA and EPA contained in it can also help maintain brain health and reduce negative emotions. Going outdoors more often to get in touch with nature, making more friends, and cultivating normal social activities will help stabilize your mood and maintain positive thinking.