programs gym photos nutrition videos

Mental health: New study says exercise before drugs


We always knew exercise does the body good: It’s good for physical health in terms of keeping our bones and muscles healthy and strong, and it’s good for combatting diseases, like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

We also know it’s good for your mental health. That it might even help combat depression and anxiety.

But now, new science takes these already bold claims up a notch or two.

Researchers from the University of Vermont say that—based on their recent research published in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine—that exercise should be prescribed before pharmaceuticals when it comes to mental health.

Their research is line with increasing acknowledgement that patients often experience chronic problems associated with various pharmacological interventions to treat their mental illness. Essentially, the usefulness of antidepressants often decreases over time, but patients become reliant on the drugs and end up experiencing more side effects than positives results.

Read this New York Times story for more about the growing problem of becoming addicted to antidepressants.

In this new University of Vermont study, approximately 100 volunteers from their inpatient clinic were prescribed structured exercises, which included a combination of strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training for 60 approximately minute sessions.

The result: 95 percent of the patients reported feeling better, while 63 percent reported feeling happy or very happy instead of sad or neutral.

The lead author of the study, psychotherapist David Tomasi, hopes this study can change the way we prescribe treatment for mental health.

The general attitude of medicine is that you treat the primary problem first, and exercise was never considered to be a life or death treatment option. Now that we know it's so effective, it can become as fundamental as pharmacological intervention,” he said.

The inpatient psychiatry unit where the study was conducted is the first centre of its kind to prescribe exercise as the first form of treatment to its patients.

Though Tomasi and his team are positive about the ability for exercise to treat various mental illnesses, they’re not suggesting we should abandon psychotropic medications altogether. They’re simply suggesting integrating fitness facilities into psychiatric facilities as another (and perhaps) first treatment option.

Maybe I’m biased being a coach and all, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Our bodies and minds don’t really exist separately, and we’re not designed to be sedentary. Thus, it is only expected that a sedentary existence will also have negative consequences on the mind, which is what I’d argue we keep seeing in our often sedentary world today.

The point is simply that the mind needs the body to thrive. And exercise seems like a natural place to start…

What do you think?