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The 'exercise-the-blues-away' phenomenon: is exercise the answer for mental health?

Elise Watts

The plethora of “exercise-is-the-answer-for-mental-health” articles that are emerging lately have me concerned. Given my livelihood straddles both mental health and mind-body exercise, contradiction of this seems personally counter-productive; I only hope this makes my point of view noteworthy. Personally, the ubiqitous notion that exercise conquers negative affects (such as anxiety or depressive states) based upon rather limited research, echoes the ‘let-them-eat-prozac’ dogma of the eighties we are only now starting to see past. Society bears a history of being less comfortable with mental illness than physical illness. Sweeping, quick-fix solutions are often given in place of genuine consideration, to make the ‘uncomfortable’ problems associated with mental health disappear. I worry that the ‘exercise-away-the-blues’ phenomenon is being applied too hastily for many, without real issues being addressed. Are we heaping too many expectations upon the shoulders of the fitness industry? Whilst exercise has undoubted benefits for those experiencing depression or anxiety, this broad statement can be misinterpreted, and may unwittingly mask issues that lead to further dependencies, rather than empowerment and healing.

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