October is Mental Health Month and Australia is in the grip of a mental health and inactivity crisis.
One in five Australians have experienced a mental disorder in the last 12 months, and one in eight people worldwide live with a mental disorder.
The worldwide cost of mental health disorders is set to rise from $2.3 trillion to $6 trillion by 2030 and while the benefit of exercise for depression and anxiety is generally recognised, it is often overlooked in the management of these conditions.
Nobody in their right mind - and I’ll come to that later - would deny that physical activity and exercise is a critical factor in maintaining good physical health.
The benefits of exercise in combatting obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, in fact just about any physical ailment, have been demonstrated time and time again by medical authorities and researchers.
But we don’t need doctors to tell us that - it’s something we intrinsically know through personal experience.
What is becoming more evident, especially after the ravages of Covid is the role exercise and physical activity plays in supporting our mental wellbeing as well as our physical health.
A recent meta-analysis from the University of Adelaide of over 100 credible research programs covering over 100,000 participants concludes that exercise is one and a half times more effective in managing/mitigating anxiety and depression than medications or counselling.
This finding reinforced my own personal experiences in managing mental health issues. Since the age of 14 I have been accustomed to occasional bouts of depression triggered by events or situations.
Since the same age I have managed the episodes by various means including counselling, pharmaceuticals and physical activity with the latter being the most effective and most enduring.
As a teenager I discovered surfing and the adrenalin, fear and most of all serenity it provided me. Sitting in the ocean watching the sun come up or go down was a nature induced panacea that nurtured and protected me.
Later when I moved away from the ocean, I took up running, became addicted to the natural high that ensues and again found peace running most mornings before work in the Adelaide parklands as the sun rose and the morning mist was dissolved by the warmth of a new day.
Although at times I have resorted to medication and or counselling, and they have their place, exercise and nature have been my ‘go to’ managing strategies for the past 57 years.
Health researchers are also discovering the positive impacts of exercise when combined with nutrition and cognitive training in preventing, or at least delaying the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
If you are still not convinced of the positive nexus between exercise and mental wellbeing, earlier this year the Harvard Business Review published findings on the benefits of exercise for improving individual productivity.
The research found that regular exercise resulted in better sleep, more energy and greater cognitive function - all leading to improved productivity and improved workplace morale.
Take note Mr Treasurer.
It is this greater awareness on the importance of physical activity and exercise for both physical and mental wellbeing that is behind the current Fit for Office campaign initiated by AUSactive with the support of Myzone technology.
Over a four week period, currently more than 28 senators and federal politicians from both houses representing all political persuasions and states are participating in a friendly competition until 22nd October to prove they are ‘Fit for Office’.
The point of the exercise, no pun intended, is to raise the national conversation on the importance of exercise, to prod all governments to seriously invest in preventive health and inspire population wide behavioural change through a national public health campaign promoting the benefits of physical activity.
The various state-based voucher systems are a start but inconsistent in eligibility, timing, value and activity choice.
The federal government has given some grants to organisations working in the chronic health sector, but by definition these organisations deal primarily with managing existing health problems, rather than prevent them in the first place.
With a return on investment of a reported sixfold, a Health system, that includes Hospitals, the NDIS, Aged Care and increasing demands for mental welfare services, collapsing under the strain, surely a government talking of wellbeing Budgets and the need to increase national productivity would seriously consider investing more in preventive health? The savings are significant, ongoing and exponential.
Coinciding with the Fit for Office campaign October is also Mental Health Month; what better time to seriously invest in the best medicine and/or treatments available - exercise?
Images: Barrie Elvish (top) and addressing the recent AUSactive Senior Management Summit in Melbourne (top).
2nd October 2023 - Jetts Fitness secures two AUSactive National Awards
26th September 2023 - AUSactive’s Fit for Office challenge gets underway
25th September 2023 - Cérge partnership with Belgravia Foundation and Belgravia Leisure secures 2023 AUSactive National Innovation Award
21st September 2023 - Brain tumour survivor Named AUSactive 2023 National Exercise Instructor of the Year
20th September 2023 - Fernwood Fitness secure multiple wins at 2023 AUSactive Awards
16th September 2023 - AUSactive Awards 2023 celebrate the fitness and wellbeing industry’s highest achievements
4th September 2023 - AUSactive campaign calls on Federal Parliamentarians to be ‘Fit for Office’
1st August 2023 - AUSactive to stage ‘Mini MBA in a Day’
27th July 2023 - AUSactive launches 2023 Digital Futures Consultation
6th July 2023 - AUSactive invites industry input in predicting hottest fitness trends for 2024
29th June 2023 - Superyacht Fitness and Myzone partner to improve physical and mental health of crew members
6th June 2023 - AUSactive to stage industry Summits in four states
5th June 2023 - ActiveXchange releases community profile tool for AUSactive members
18th May 2023 - Walk With Me engages elite athletes and coaches to support communities’ mental health
28th April 2023 - AUSactive Chief Executive says fitness can ‘save’ Medicare
6th March 2023 - AUSactive highlights urgent need for Federal Budget to prioritise physical activity
15th April 2023 - World Active Summit accepts Charter and Elects Council
13th March 2023 - Viva Leisure study shows Australians rate mental health as top reason for attending the gym
3rd March 2023 - Physical exercise more effective than medicines to manage mental health
20th December 2022 - AUSactive highlights having ‘come a long way’ in its advocacy
10th October 2022 - Olympic champion Hayley Lewis named as Mental Health Ambassador
4th October 2022 - Rebel and Lifeline launch campaign ahead of World Mental Health Day
23rd September 2022 - ExerciseNZ’s Richard Beddie says exercising for mental health is ‘critical’
10th August 2022 - AUSactive webinars to offer mental health support
4th August 2022 - AUSactive’s Barrie Elvish praises Queensland Government’s FairPlay voucher scheme
27th July 2022 - AUSactive’s Barrie Elvish named Chair of World Active Forum
14th March 2022 - AUSactive’s Barrie Elvish highlights cost of Australia’s physical and mental health crisis to Federal Treasurer
23rd February 2021 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish highlights the value of health
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