How much activity is enough?
There are differing opinions on this when it comes to incorporating exercise as part of a ‘lifestyle treatment plan’. This question is better answered taking certain factors into consideration, such as age and overall physical condition and not just the general symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Believe it or not, children as young as pre-school age can be diagnosed with conditions like depression (some even as young as 3 years old!). Research is still being done with regards to developing effective treatment plans for such little beings, especially when it comes to medication.
Exercise activity is one thing you can encourage in your child should they show depressive symptoms.
It can be argued that what’s physically good for you in general, is likely enough to help you through your symptoms of anxiety or depression, at any age. Many agree that at least 30-minutes (or more) of exercise activity a day, 3 to 5 days a week can significantly improve symptoms of anxiety or depression.
If getting started or maintaining activity is difficult at first, aim for at least 10 to 15-minutes at a time, and gradually increase from there. Every little bit makes a difference. The important thing is to get started, but the real benefit of exercise for any mental condition is to maintain it over the long term.
Once you decide on activities you’re most likely to enjoy, set yourself attainable goals and make the effort to achieve them.
General activity guidelines which can also apply to anyone managing a mental condition include:
Activity guidelines for children under the age of 5
Generally speaking, once a child is able to walk and run on their own, daily physical activity is important. At least 180 minutes (or 3 hours), spread out throughout each day, is a good rule of thumb. This can include activity that is based indoors or outdoors.
For a little one activity is light and should include things like standing up, moving around, active play (climbing, dancing, bike riding, water games and swimming, ball games, hide and seek, and chasing types of activities), rolling about, hopping, skipping, jumping and a little run around too.
Children under 5 years of age shouldn’t be allowed to be inactive for long periods of time, with the exception of time they spend napping or sleeping.
Activity guidelines for children between the ages of 5 to 18
Basic levels of health can be achieved with at least 60 minutes (1 hour) of physical activity on a daily basis. This can range from moderate activities to the more vigorous variety. Strength building or training (3 days a week) should also form part of a regular requirement. One minute of vigorous activity provides similar health benefits to two minutes of a moderate variety.
Moderate activities can include things like playground activities, cycling or biking, walking, riding a scooter, skateboarding or rollerblading. More vigorous activity can include exercises such as tennis, running, martial arts, gymnastics and sports such as football or soccer. Vigorous activity, generally, promotes stronger bones and muscles, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels, maintains a healthy weight, and can also elevate levels of self-esteem, especially when a person feels a sense of accomplishment doing a specific activity.
Activity guidelines for adults between the ages of 19 to 64
Moderate aerobic activity and strength exercises (daily) are important for the bodies of adults too. About 150 minutes (a week) of moderate aerobic activity is a good rule of thumb and can include activities such as fast-paced walking, water aerobics, hiking or cycling. If group activities appeal to you, give volleyball or basketball a go too for a great aerobic workout.
Moderate activity elevates your heart rate, increases your breathing speed and makes you feel warmer. When this happens, you know you’re getting in a good workout.
Strength exercises work all the major muscles in the body, especially the chest, abdomen, shoulders, arms, legs, back and hips). A good rule of thumb for strength training is to try and get in about 2 or 3 workouts a week. You can use weights and resistance bands to enhance your muscle-strengthening workouts, or get stuck in to some serious gardening (digging and shovelling) or try yoga or Pilates classes.
Great vigorous activities to try include jogging or running, swimming, biking, tennis, skipping rope, aerobics, dancing, martial arts or group sports such as hockey, rugby and football or soccer.
Activity guidelines for seniors, 65 years of age and older
If a person has no other health concerns that limit their ability to move around, at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and strength exercises, 2 or 3 times a week, should be enough to keep one healthy and fit.
If you feel up to it, mix things up and combine moderate (walking, ballroom dancing, water aerobics, or canoeing) and vigorous activity (jogging, swimming, biking, tennis and more energetic dance styles) each week, along with strength training exercises (such as those that involve stepping and jumping or yoga and Pilates) which work all the major muscle groups in the body. Break up sedentary habits (long periods of sitting) to help reduce weakness in the legs, as well as improve co-ordination and balance.