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Mental Health & Exercise

August 20, 2018

Mental Health – Exercise Based Interventions

Major Long-term health conditions experienced in Australia in 2014-15 were

  • Arthritis – 3.5 million people (15.3%)
  • Cancer – 370,100 people (1.6%)
  • Diabetes – 1.2 million people (5.2%)
  • Mental and Behavioural conditions – 4.0 million people (17.5%)
  • Asthma – 2.5 million people (10.8%)

Additionally, of the 4.0 million, 3.6 million reported co-existing long-term mental and behavioral
and physical health conditions.

1 in 3 people are likely to have some physical impairment if mental health disorder lasted 12
months and longer.

Classification of Disease 10th Revision (ICD-10) categorises mental disorders into 3 groups:

    • ● Affective disorders – 1 in 16 Australians (aged 18-65)
    • ● Anxiety Disorders – 1 in 7 Australians (aged 18-65)
    • ● Substance abuse disorders – 1 in 20 Australians (aged 18-65)
    • Note: some may more than one class at any given time.

Affective Disorder – common types
● Depressive episode
● Dysthymia – persistent depressive disorder
(chronic depression)
● Bipolar Affective disorder
Anxiety Disorder – common types
● Social Phobia
● Panic attack
● Agoraphobia
Female > Male

Substance Abuse – common types
● Alcohol Harmful Use
● Alcohol dependence
● Any drug harmful use
● Any drug dependence
Male > Female

Exercise: Anxiety and Depression
A meta-analysis performed by Wang et. al. (2014) looked into the benefits Tai Chi can have on
anxiety and depressive disorders. As seen in the image below it revealed that in all cases Tai
Chi caused positive results in all studies.

Exercise has also shown to improve cognition and memory in those suffering from Alzheimer’s
Disease (AD) and Dementia. Furthermore, Type 2 diabetes has been linked to an increased risk
of developing AD and dementia.
How Does Exercise Help?
● Aerobic exercise improves age-related volume loss of the brain in older adults. Specific
changes that occur in the brain are related to executive control process and memory.
● Additional benefits include selective attention, multitasking, cognitive flexibility and
working memory.

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Mental Health
The important hormone responsible for the following:
● Neuron Morphology and survival
● Mood regulations
● Cognitive functions (learning and memory)
Low BDNF has been linked to the following:
● Depression
● Bipolar disorder
● Schizophrenia
● Neurodegenerative diseases
Research has found that aerobic exercise increases serum BDNF circulating in the brain.
Therefore exercise can be a big part of maintaining good mental health!

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