New studies from Sweden have shown that physical activity can help protect us from stress-induced depression, and Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is urging workplaces to take note.
'We all know the many benefits of exercise on our bodies, but more and more research is indicating the positive impact it has on our brains is significant," says ESSA spokesperson and Accredited Exercise Physiologist Katie Williams.
'Australian workplaces are busy and hectic and we all have to work within tight deadlines and targets. Sometimes these conditions can cause severe stress leading to anxiety and depression."
The Australian Psychological Society -Stress and Wellbeing Survey 2013' shows that significantly more Australians were reporting that current stress was having at least some impact on their mental health (65%), with one in five (20%) reporting that current stress was having a strong to very strong impact on mental health.
'These figures are alarming and can have a severe impact on not just workplace productivity but also take a huge toll on families."
'This new research from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows that exercise training induces changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of a substance that accumulates during stress, and is harmful to the brain," says Katie.
Stress and stress-induced anxiety and depression is a huge issue for Australian workplaces, and has led to loss of productivity and absence of workers costing Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year.
'The fear we have is that workplaces are not taking control of their employees' mental health. By introducing simple strategies to alleviate workplace stress, managers could not only reduce stress and depression but also help their profits over the long run."
'More importantly, as a worker you must also take control of your stress, and you must realise what an important role physical activity can play in stress management. Act now before you find yourself in a difficult place," says Katie.
Top tips on how to get started and stick to exercise:
Consult with your doctor or accredited exercise physiologist. If you haven't exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Walk before you run. Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury. For most healthy adults, we recommend getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (think brisk walking or swimming) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running). If you're new to exercise, start at the moderate level and then add vigorous activity as your fitness improves.
Do what you love. Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Examples include walking, stair climbing, jogging, bicycling, yoga, tai chi, gardening, weightlifting and swimming.
Pencil it in. Although your schedule may necessitate a morning workout one day and an evening activity the next, carving out some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program an ongoing priority.