Everybody is different, as an individual, but the research is saying that it can have very similar outcomes to medication.
Lisa Simmons, JCU Sport and Exercise Science Lecturer
Mental health therapy and research
JCU is connected with the hospital and community health services in Townsville.
This provides opportunities for JCU Exercise Physiology students to be part of programs that improve access to services, particularly in mental health.
Exercise for mental health patients is very individualised. For some it is simply a walk in the park, while others are more adventurous. “It really depends,” Lisa says. “Some people are very receptive to a gym environment, and they really like it.”
Getting mental health patients to engage in exercise is an important first step. “And once you get them doing it and you create that behaviour, then it tends to open the door for other things,” Lisa says. “Our end goal is lifelong participation in exercise.”
How much exercise do we really need?
Of course, we shouldn’t merely leave exercise to others.
Lisa Simmons laughs when she hears the question ‘how much exercise do we actually need?’. “The good news is, it’s not a lot,” she says. Lisa explains that people may want to aim for about 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous continuous activity per week. This a bit over twenty minutes per day.
An example would be to go for a walk. And you don’t need fancy gadgets, like a fitness watch. “Moderate activity means you should still be able to talk to someone, but you might get a little bit of breathlessness,” Lisa says. “‘Vigorous’ exercise is when you feel increased breathlessness when you are talking.”
For those who do have a fitness watch, the ideal heart rate depends on the individual. The maximum suggested heart rate is 220 minus your age. Moderate exercise would be half of the result, and vigorous exercise about 70 per cent. For example, a 20-year-old would want to target a heart rate of at least 100 beats per minute for moderate exercise and a bit more than 140 beats per minute for vigorous exercise.
After all, exercising is easy if you make it a habit – just like brushing your teeth.