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Exercise as a method of improving mental health

Exercise as a method of improving mental health

Firstly we must make it clear that unless you are qualified to do so, you should not give specific exercise advise to your clients, but you may explain some of the hypotheses detailed here, and suggest that these could be explored further in consultation with someone who is qualified to deliver the specific advise.

You may be wondering why we include this subject at all? Simply because there is significant research evidence of the benefits of exercise for mental health, and if it helps your clients to do better than they would without it, why not?

The following information is taken from Taylor, A. (2000) “Physical activity, anxiety and stress” in Biddle, S. et al (Eds) Physical Activity and Psychological Well-Being, Routledge.

  • Research has shown that physical activity has a low to moderate anxiety reducing effect with some studies showing a greater effect.
  • Studies show consistently that exercise can reduce GAD.
  • Single exercise sessions result in decreased anxiety compared before and after.
  • The “better” the research design, the greater the effect.
  • Single sessions can reduce physiological reactivity to stress and enhance recovery.
  • Panic attacks and phobias may not respond so well.
  • Long term exercise programmes have a greater effect.
  • Aerobic and rhythmic exercise has the greatest effect.


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