Skip to main content

Exercise recommended to manage youth mental health issues


Today, mental health is the single biggest health issue facing young Australians. Seventy five per cent of mental health problems emerge before the age of 25 but only one in four young people experiencing mental health problems receive professional help.

Last month, Australian Minister for Health, Peter Dutton, announced the development of 15 additional ‘Headspace’ Centre’s across the country.  The National Youth Mental Health Foundation helps 12 to 21 year olds manage health issues such as anxiety, depression, body image, eating disorders, emotional wellbeing and much more. 

Headspace recommend a variety of methods for treating and managing mental health issues, placing a huge importance on physical exercise. “When you're feeling down the last thing you might feel like doing is working out, but studies have suggested that any activity, from walking around the block to yoga or biking could contribute to improving the symptoms of depression and anxiety.” ( 2014)

The Science

Physical activity stimulates the pleasure centre’s of the brain. During exercise we release endorphins to cope with the healthy stresses placed on the body. These feel good hormones are responsible for the buzz we feel after a workout, and are thought to have been originally recruited for our fight or flight defence in our caveman years. Exercise also has an effect on two very important chemicals in the brain which transmit information, serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin affects mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep, memory and temperature regulation. Dopamine affects movement, emotional response and your ability to feel pleasure. Both chemicals are heavily linked to depression and anxiety. 

The Studies

A 1999 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine  took 156 people and divided them into three groups to test different antidepressant treatments. One group only used exercise, the second only antidepressant medication and the third a combination of the two. All three groups showed the same level of improvements at 16 weeks, however the second group who used medication only saw a quicker response from patients than the other two groups. 

“A follow-up to that study found that the effect of exercise lasted longer than those of antidepressants. Researchers checked in with 133 of the original patients six months after the first study ended. They found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which group they were in originally were less likely to relapse into depression.” (Harvard Health Publications). 

The Benefits

Beyond blue, an Australian depression and anxiety awareness organisation, published the following benefits of physical activity and how they may help depression and anxiety management. 

  • help lift mood
  • help people get a good night’s sleep
  • increase energy levels
  • help block negative thoughts and/or distract people from daily worries
  • help people feel less alone if they exercise or socialise with others
  • increase well-being

For more information on youth mental health visit

At Les Mills we are committed to creating a fitter healthier planet starting with the next generation. 


Inspire a new generation to be physically active. 

BORN TO MOVE™ is a series of programs designed specifically for young people from toddler age through to teens, fostering and cementing positive physical habits so they’re hardwired for a lifetime. BORN TO MOVE™ builds confidence and develops skills using simple moves, role-playing, stories, games, team building, performance, problem solving and the magic of music.

BORN TO MOVE™ was created in order to combat the growing obesity epidemic in Australia. Kids and teens are today more sedentary than ever, contributing to both mental and psychical health issues. In Australia 25 per cent of children are overweight or obese, a trend which is expected to rise to 33 per cent by 2020. Further to this 50 per cent of obese adolescents will remain obese into adulthood. 

For more information visit