SunLive – Exercise proves a powerful mental health tool

As we celebrate World Men’s Mental Health Month this June, the focus is on the mental wellbeing of men in New Zealand.

National statistics reveal that one in eight men will experience depression and one in five will face anxiety at some point in their lives, making it more important than ever to address these issues.

Alarmingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young men under 25, and New Zealand has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world.

In general, men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women.

A recent comprehensive study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine provides compelling evidence for the benefits of exercise in improving mental health outcomes.

Key findings show that exercise has been shown to be the most effective intervention in improving three key branches that contribute to mental health and well-being: depression, anxiety and psychological distress.

  1. Depression: Physical activity helps reduce symptoms of depression. Exercise increases the production of endorphins and serotonin, brain chemicals that improve mood and promote a feeling of well-being. Regular physical activity can also help reduce feelings of hopelessness and fatigue, commonly associated with depression.
  2. Anxiety: Regular exercise relieves anxiety symptoms. Engaging in physical activity helps reduce the body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, and triggers the release of endorphins, which act as natural pain relievers and improve mood. Exercise also promotes better sleep and can help relieve physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension.
  3. Psychological distress: Exercise significantly reduces psychological distress. Physical activity can serve as a healthy distraction, helping to break the cycle of negative thoughts that fuel psychological distress. It also provides a sense of accomplishment and can improve self-esteem and cognitive function, making it easier to cope with stress.

Given the strong evidence, physical activity and exercise should be integrated as a primary approach in the management of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.

Richard Beddie, chief executive of Exercise New Zealand, said: “Mental health has been neglected in Aotearoa for too long, with too much emphasis on prescribing medication, which has now been shown to be far less effective than exercise in the study. largest global event of its kind. .

“We congratulate the Government on the appointment of a Minister for Mental Health. The challenge for the Minister will be to ensure the focus is on tackling root causes and giving people real tools to help Kiwis face the challenges of mental health. rather than simply supporting the status quo of funding more drugs,” says Richard.

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