Running away the Blues
Long story short: I have close friends and family members who have been diagnosed with anxiety and mild depression. I have seen first-hand the impact these mental illnesses can have on the lives of sufferers.
In 2013, a co-worker insisted everyone in the office participate in an annual fun run. My family accepted the challenge and completed the 6km run. This run was the start of a journey to healthier, more content life.
My friends have since started running and reported similar improvements in the symptoms of their anxiety and depression.
I am certain there a many others who share the same story but it has given me the opportunity to see first-hand the benefits of physical activity. My parents now enjoy traveling around the country participating in half-marathons.
Depression and Anxiety in Australia
In Australia, depression and anxiety are the most common mental illnesses. Currently, there are three million Australians living with depression or anxiety.
Depression is a mood disorder characterised by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest, while anxiety is a mood disorder which is a constant, overwhelming worry about “normal” daily situations. The severity of depression or anxiety varies in different people with both mood disorders adversely affecting your quality of life, with mental and behavioural disorders such as depression and anxiety being the second largest contributor of healthy days lost due to disability in 2013.
Furthermore in 2010, mental and behavioural disorders accounted for approximately 13% of the total burden of diseases in Australia, third after cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Not only do mental illnesses affect the individual’s quality of life, it also impacts the lives of those around the sufferer.
Physical activity as a treatment
There have been several studies into the health benefits of physical, such as reducing our risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Increasingly, there has been research looking at the effectiveness of physical activity in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
A recent meta-analysis of studies published between 1979 and 2014 found that overall physical activity of varying intensity levels is beneficial in the treatment of depression, reducing the symptoms of the mental illness.
Not only can we use physical activity in the treatment of some mental illnesses, we can use it to preventing mild depression and anxiety.
It is important to note that physical activity is not a stand-alone treatment for depression and anxiety. Each case is different and needs to be treated accordingly and in close consultation with a doctor. To effectively manage anxiety and depression, a doctor can help with developing a strategy.
The World Health Organisation recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity (e.g. brisk walking) or 75 minute of vigorous intensity (running) activity over three days per week to prevent mental illness and improve our overall health and well-being.
Physical activity has become essential in effectively managing anxiety and depression in the lives of my family and friends.
BeyondBlue Helpline: 1300 22 4636