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.