Exercise: A Prescription for Mental Health
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We’ve long known there are many health benefits of exercise. We think of the benefits to heart health and Body Mass Index (BMI) to name a few. It turns out, regular exercise provides us with even more good news.
The University of Vermont recently studied the impact of integrating exercise and nutrition programs into the treatment plans of patients at an inpatient psychiatric facility. Results were positive! In fact, findings from the study reveal that physical exercise is so effective at alleviating patient symptoms that it could reduce patients’ time admitted to acute facilities and reliance on psychotropic medications.
Patients reported lower levels of anger, anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, and overall improved moods. An average of 95 percent of patients reported that their moods improved after doing the structured exercises, while 63 percent of the patients reported being happy or very happy, as opposed to neutral, sad or very sad, after the exercises. An average of 91.8 of patients also reported that they were pleased with the way their bodies felt after doing the structured exercises.
“The general attitude of medicine is that you treat the primary problem first, and exercise was never considered to be a life or death treatment option. Now that we know it’s so effective, it can become as fundamental as pharmacological intervention,” explains David Tomasi, a lecturer at the University of Vermont, psychotherapist and inpatient psychiatry group therapist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and lead researcher of the study.
“The fantastic thing about these results is that, if you’re in a psychotic state, you’re sort of limited with what you can do in terms of talk therapy or psychotherapy. It’s hard to receive a message through talk therapy in that state, whereas with exercise, you can use your body and not rely on emotional intelligence alone” explains Tomasi.