Regular Exercise Can Help People Avoid Need For Mental Health Medication

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Regular exercise has numerous health benefits, including improving mental health. A recent study by Norwegian scientists revealed that people who exercise regularly require less mental health medication.

Physical activity linked to reduced use of antidepressants

Senior study author and associate professor at the Department of Public Health and Nursing at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) said that thy found individuals in better shape filling fewer depression and anxiety medications.

The study analysed health data of 250,000 Norwegians and compared it to the Norwegian Prescribed Drug Registry. A significant discovery was that better physical fitness decreased the reliance on antidepressants and anxiolytics.

A prior study by Ernsten’s team revealed a connection between good physical fitness and reduced depression symptoms over a 10-year period. However, no relationship was found between physical health and anxiety at that time. The design of the latest study allows researchers to investigate the medications prescribed to individuals who provided their health information since 2018.

The study design has a limitation because it only reveals the type of medication participants were prescribed, not whether they actually took it. Nevertheless, the first author and associate professor at the Department of Psychology at NTNU, Audun Havnen, suggests that those prescribed medication likely have more symptoms than those who don’t see a doctor.

Regular physical activity has pronounced impact in men

Regular physical activity is advantageous for individuals across various age groups and genders, although its impact may vary among different demographic groups. Notably, men tend to experience more pronounced improvements in their mental well-being and a reduced reliance on medication related to mental health concerns compared to women.

The novel research framework offers the advantage of establishing a chronological sequence of events. It explores whether physical fitness can prevent anxiety and depression or if those with these conditions engage in less physical activity. The study excluded individuals with prescriptions for anxiety or depression at the start, focusing on those who needed medication throughout. In simpler terms, participants began without depression and anxiety symptoms, suggesting that exercise might help prevent these conditions from developing.

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