Exercise is hugely more important for people’s mental health since covid arrived 16 months ago, according to a major new ExerciseNZ survey.
In 2018, just seven percent of the public surveyed by ExerciseNZ said they exercised for mental health.
The latest survey shows 63 percent of people are now exercising to help with their mental health.
“This is really positive and is a greater awareness of why exercise helps on so many levels,” ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie said.
“With stress and mental health challenges at an all-time high, we need all the tools at our disposal that we can.
Exercise is as effective as anti-depressants when treating mild to moderate depression, according to research.
“More support is needed for comprehensive exercise support programmes, not just medication and pills,” noted Beddie.
The government, including the Prime Minister, has repeatedly stated their commitment to improving mental health, including announcing several large planned financial investments.
But by having a Wellbeing Budget, they appear to focus only on treatment and not prevention. We urgently call on the government to talk to us about how we can help.
“If we want to help hundreds of thousands of Kiwis, without just medicating an entire generation, we need to work together to increase physical activity levels,” Beddie added.
This is especially important for those most at risk from mental health, and the least physically active, which are the same groups - Maori, Pacific people, those with disabilities and those in lower social-economic households.
“The health system focuses far too much on treating mental health like every other condition by medicating when the issue gets severe enough. This approach just isn’t working and isn’t sustainable.
“We have the opportunity to be creative with a focus on prevention and providing more tools to help people manage themselves, and also know when to ask for help.”