top of page

Study highlights the effectiveness of exercise as a leading treatment for mental health

Exercise for the mind and body: study highlights the effectiveness of exercise as a leading treatment for mental health

Road Fitness, March 2023

It is no secret that regular exercise has always been a pathway to maintaining good health. Has physical exercise, however, been clinically proven to fix mental health concerns? How much research exists?

In 2021, 1 in 5 Australians aged 16-85 experienced a mental health disorder in the prior 12 months while 2 in 5 Australians have experienced a mental disorder during their lives. (1) We are also all aware, anecdotally and through research, of the impact that Covid-19 had on mental health and wellbeing. It is highly probable that either we or the people in our lives have likely encountered mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or distress.

How have these mental health conditions typically been treated? Through the use of a variety of prescription medicines such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotic medications or mood stabilisers.(2) However, a ground-breaking recent study conducted by the University of South Australia is now championing exercise as a primary means of improving mental health.(3)

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, comprehensively included 97 reviews, 1039 trials and 128,119 participants and concluded that in actual fact exercise and physical activity was 1.5 times more effective than top-tier medications and other interventions such as counselling. This research further highlighted the speed that change can occur in an individual (12 weeks or less); the importance of high intensity workouts, particularly for depression and anxiety; and the notable benefits of other forms of exercise including walking, resistance training, yoga and pilates. Their final conclusion was the following:

“Physical activity should be a mainstay approach in the management of depression, anxiety and psychological distress.”

Let’s hope that this research can lead the way for structured exercise to become a key intervention and go-to treatment option for managing mental health disorders. This finally puts concrete research to what we have known and advocated for since starting Road Fitness: that when regular, structured and high intensity exercise is embedded as part of our routine, the mental and physical benefits can be profound and exponential.

*Road Fitness also acknowledges the importance of communicating readily and effectively with health care professionals and the valuable role that prescribed medication plays in the lives of many individuals and their health.

(1) Australian Government. 2022. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Mental health: prevalence and impact. National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing

(2) Health Direct Australia. 2022. Safe use of mental health medicines

(3) Singh B, Olds T, Curtis R, et al. 2023. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: an overview of systematic reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine

50 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page