Exercise As Therapy





ball Exercise as therapy mountain-biker lizard


I've mentioned elsewhere that I wasn't told of my illness until I was 42 years of age. What that meant is that, without medication, I found a whole raft of ways of coping with episodic mania and depression. Most of them were destructive as they entailed self-medication and abuse, but during relatively stable periods of a year or two, I found only one way of coping with the massive energy jolts and morose depressions that didn't involve those destructive tendencies--I pursued physical activities with a vengeance. Unfortunately, without the stabilising effect of lithium, eventually an episode would succeed in overcoming the best of my protections. Now, with lithium, and moderate exercise, I have been stable for over five years.


First let's distinguish physical activity with a purpose from meaningless pacing or obsessive behaviours. What I am talking about here results in an elevation of mood and the release of tension, an end to agitation, and a general improvement in our sense of well-being. Enjoyable physical activity can break the cycle of self-absorption and negative self-talk that less positive techniques leave unfazed. So what kind of activities are we talking about then?


Beneficial exercise encompasses virtually any aerobic exercise that you can think of. Everything from cycling to brisk walks on a beach or around the neighbourhood can provide excellent benefits to mental stability. My personal favourite was (and is) to pursue endurance riding which is a form of long-distance horseracing covering up to 100 miles in a 24 hour period. Obviously, this is a bit extreme for most folks, but you needn't devote such intenseness to your fun, just find something pleasurable and physical to do for an hour a day and you should begin to feel your troubled mind ease a bit. Besides, physical exercise is a great way to meet people as well as to slow the inexorable "march of pounds" that accrue due to the various psych-meds some of us take.


ball Books on exercise as therapy

  1. Leith, L. M (1998). Exercising your way to better mental health: (fight depression and alleviate stress through exercise). Fitness Information Technology: Morgantown, US. ISBN 1-885693-09-05

    This is essentially a workbook, containing general theory, homework sheets and checklists, suitable for use by persons currently in therapy from mental health professionals (plus others with relevant qualifications in physical education or similar). At about AU$40, it seems a reasonable investment. Available through PM Bookshop, Coffs Harbour and through Fitness Information Technology website.

  2. Morgan, W.P and Goldston, S.E ( 1987). Exercise and Mental Health. Hemisphere Publishing Company: New York. ISBN 0-89116-564-9.

    Contains exercise-compliance material plus reasonably adequate and relevant theory. (NB: the publication is now over twelve years old; some of the recommendations re "dose"/ frequency of exercise have been superseded). Available through Wollongong University library.

  3. Leith, L. M ( 1994). Foundations of Exercise and Mental Health. Fitness Information Technology: Morgantown, US. ISBN 0-9627926-6-7.

    A precursor to the more recent workbook by the same author, this is a 243 page treatise, seemingly based upon a significant amount of doctoral research . If you are able to do so, its very much worth the while getting a copy. (Available through ? Newcastle University library).

  4. Morgan, W.P ( 1996). Physical Activity and Mental Health. Taylor and Francis Publishers: US. 288 pages. Not yet substantially reviewed.

    List and book reviews courtesy of listowner and cyclist enthusiast Kate Walker:

    8/50 Victoria Street, Coffs Harbour 2450. New South Wales. Australia. Tel: (Australia) 02-66-591405: Mobile 0419-988046 or a/h ( Australia 02-66-513988).

    You can also reach Kate by mailing to either of the following addresses from this page: bicycle@tpg.com.au OR kwalker@doh.health.nsw.gov.au

ball Email discussion forum on exercise as therapy


Physical Activity for Mental Health - A new and wonderfully supportive discussion list where members share their experiences with utilising physical activities like cycling, walking and others to aid them in stabilisation.
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