'Green exercise' one of best medicines for mental health

YOU know the saying 'what came first - the chicken or the egg?'

The same line of thought can be applied to the situation with mental health and weight gain.

CQUniversity's Dr Rob Stanton said it can be difficult at times to know what comes first for people who are clinically diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety and are overweight or obese which health issue was the root problem.

He said one of the side affects of taking anti depressants is weight gain and on the other side of the issue - people can suffer depression from being overweight.

"It is important that people work alongside other health professionals as part of the recovery process or treatment process," Dr Stanton said.

"Exercise is exceptionally good as medication for people with mental health issues. Research shows it as being effective medication for mild to moderate depression and people with other mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety."

He said there was a growing body of evidence that 'green exercise' (outdoor exercise in natural environments) such as hiking and kayaking as being one of the best treatments for depression, anxiety and stress.

Dr Stanton said green exercise has a number of elements that benefit a person's health such as Vitamin D from sunlight, fresh air, increases heart rate from exercising, relaxing sounds.

"People with depression and anxiety tend to isolate themselves and stay indoors a lot, staying away from social interactions," he said.

He said activities such as hiking provide them with an exercise activity that doesn't require interaction with people for long periods of time, providing them with a 'safe' or comfortable environment.

"Even a short walk in the park can have benefits, but I recommended people talk with their GP or exercise physiologist before embarking on an exercise program. Particularly if it's been a long time since you exercised, or know you have health problems," Dr Stanton said.

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