UQ health sciences study to trial intense exercise to aid mental health

Can high-intensity exercise improve the physical and emotional health of people with mental illness? UQ health sciences researchers are seeking volunteers to help find out.

Researchers from the Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health at the UQ School of Human Movement Studies hope to improve the well-being of people with mental illness by comparing high-intensity to moderate-intensity exercise.

University of Queensland health sciences
Can intense physical activity improve mental health?

PhD candidate Justin Chapman said the study provided an opportunity for people with mental health issues to undertake exercise training in a safe environment under expert supervision.

“People with mental illness tend to face psychosocial barriers to the uptake of exercise and a healthy lifestyle, which may contribute to the poor physical health and lower life expectancy experienced by this group,” Mr Chapman said. “We know exercise improves physical and mental health, quality of life and general well-being; however, very little is known about the effectiveness of different types of exercise, or what specific exercise programs suit people with mental illness.”

Mr Chapman said high-intensity interval training had health benefits for people with cardiovascular disease, but this would be the first study of its kind using the training in a mental health context.

“This type of training has gained rapid appreciation among clinicians because it increases fitness in a shorter timeframe than moderate-intensity continuous training, and it is suitable for people of all fitness levels” he said.

“As part of the study, participants will be randomly selected to take part in either high-intensity interval training or a moderate-intensity exercise program.

“They’ll complete a twelve-week exercise training program supervised by an exercise physiologist, with three sessions each week.”

Changes in aerobic fitness, physical activity, body composition, cardiovascular health and psychological well-being will be measured before and after the program.

“We are also interested in whether or not participants enjoy these exercise programs, and which one is most acceptable,” Mr Chapman said.

Participants must be 18 or older, receiving mental health services, and either have a mental illness, or have been experiencing symptoms such as depression, anxiety or stress for several weeks.

Participants need not be fit or physically active, and the exercise will be tailored to individuals’ abilities.

Testing and training will take place at a private gym at UQ’s St Lucia Campus, with parking provided.

UQ School of Human Movement Studies

The UQ School of Human Movement Studies is internationally renowned as one of Australia’s leading education and research centres in human movement sciences.

Researchers and academics draw on the biophysical and sociocultural sciences to extend, apply and transmit knowledge and understanding about human movement. Staff focus on many fields including exercise and sport sciences, health, sport, physical education, sport coaching, sport and exercise psychology, nutrition and dietetics.

The school provides leading-0edge education and research programs, as well as general and specialist services to elite athletes, the elderly, children, those suffering from chronic disease and people with disabilities. The goal is to promote health and well-being, and optimal physical performance, of individuals and populations of all ages.

Courses available include
  • Dietetics Studies
  • Clinical Exercise Physiology
  • Human Movement Science
  • Sports Coaching
  • Sports Medicine
  • Sport and Exercise Psychology

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