Exercise for People Living with Depression and Mental Illness

Should I include exercise as part of my mental health treatment?

It is well established in many studies that participating in regular physical activity is a good way to help prevent or manage mild depression. Exercise can change levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones. Exercise can also help lift mood through improved fitness, help improve sleeping patterns and increase energy levels. Although there is less research, studies have also demonstrated that exercise may also be effective in the prevention and treatment of anxiety conditions.

What type of exercise is best for people with depression and mental illness?

Most of the studies demonstrating the benefits of exercise on depression use moderate intensity aerobic exercise, at least three times per week for 30 minutes or more. Taking this into account together with the benefits of other forms of exercise such as resistance training, it is widely recommended that people with depression and other mental illness aim to gradually build up to a regular program that meets the Australian physical activity guidelines. This includes the following recommendations:
• Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommendations below.
• Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
• Accumulate 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week (which equates to 30-60 minutes on 5 days of the week). Moderate intensity exercise is any activity that leads to a moderate increase in you breathing and heart rate such as walking, swimming, cycling or dancing.
• If you are able, include some vigorous intensity physical activity in your week. This includes activities that lead to a higher increase in your breathing or heart rate where you find it difficult to hold a conversation while exercising. Vigorous intensity exercise includes activities such as jogging, team sport, exercise classes or gym workouts. Aim to accumulate 75-150 minutes of this vigorous intensity activity per week (for example 30-60 minutes, 3x per week). Vigorous intensity exercise may replace moderate intensity exercise or you can do any equivalent combination of the two.
• For the greatest health benefits, also include resistance training on two non-consecutive days per week. Resistance training refers to exercises where you are pushing or pulling against resistance such as weights, resistance bands or body-weight.

Our Exercise Physiologists at Glebe Physio are professionals who are trained in the safe and effective prescription of exercise for people with depression and mental illness. At Glebe Physio, we offer one-on-one appointments to individually assess your situation and tailor an exercise program for you, as well as fully supervised classes for those who enjoy exercising in a group environment.

If you would like to ask a question about our services or anything else, visit our Contact Us page to get in touch.

If you are ready to make an appointment, visit our make a booking page and get started today.

Get Active!

For more, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

If you would like to ask a question about our services or anything else, visit our Contact Us page to get in touch.

If you are ready to make an appointment, visit our make a booking page and let us help you with your fitness or recovery.

Please note that the information we provide on web pages like this one are for general information and educational purposes. We recommend speaking to a qualified physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to assess your individual situation.