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Exercise and Mental Health

People with severe mental illness face a decrease in life expectancy, of around 15 years, compared to the general population.

In addition to the mental illness, many people experience comorbidities.

  • 50% of people with mental illness have cardiovascular disease

  • 75% of people with mental illness are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease

  • People with metal health conditions are 85% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease compared to the general population without mental illness

Traditionally, the way we treat mental illness is to focus on the metal illness symptoms, for example, feelings of depression, anxiety and compulsions. However, this approach has often neglected to treat the physiological effects that mental illness has on the body.

While conventional therapies and medications have their place in the treatment and management of mental illness, the latest studies are looking into interventions that assist in addressing both the mental, and physical consequences of mental illness, as well as the symptoms and co-morbidities.

In Australia, we are lucky to have a health system that supports this ideology (see your GP for further information on GP Care Plans and eligibility).

Is exercise the best medicine?

A private psychiatric hospital in Australia has put this theory to the test.

They randomized patients into 2 groups;

  • Group 1 received usual care, a combination of talking based therapies and medication

  • Group 2 received usual care, as well as a structured exercise program

Over a 3-month period, they found that Group 2 had a significant decrease in mental illness symptoms, including PTSD, depression and anxiety, while simultaneously improving their physical health.

These practitioners also reviewed literature on depression and exercise and found that people in the “low fitness” group, compared to those in the “high fitness” group, were 75% more likely to have a diagnosis of depression.

Demonstrating that in addition to helping reduce existing symptoms of mental illness, exercise and maintaining fitness could have protective effects for mental health.

3 ways to boost your mood in 2 minutes

1. Strike a pose

That’s right, do your best Wonder Woman or Superman pose, with arms fixed on your hips and legs shoulder width apart and stand for 2 minutes. Research shows that 2 minutes is all you need to change your body chemistry to promote confidence, while decreasing cortisol (stress hormone). This simple pose has the ability to brighten your mood and reduce your anxiety in short order.

2. Simulated or genuine laughter

Laugh it up for a couple of minutes. Laughter can mobilise the relaxation response in the body, by decreasing stress hormones and stimulating the release of feel-good endorphins.

3. Deep breathing aka "diaphragmatic breathing"

Taking deep, rhythmic breaths is one of the most powerful ways to put the brakes on the

sympathetic nervous system and stimulate a relaxation response. Try taking a breath through

your nose to the count of five, and then holding for five seconds, before exhaling through pursed lips to another count of five.


Retrain Health is based in the Northern Rivers, NSW. From our Byron Bay and Ballina clinics, our team provides a range of quality healthcare services and products.

Retrain Health offers osteopathy, remedial massage, strength and conditioning, and PT sessions, with qualified practitioners.

If you are interested in finding out more information or would like to book an appointment, please contact the clinic by phone (02) 6680 7447, send us an email or click here to book an appointment online.

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