Exercise and Men’s Mental Health – Matthew Osborn AEP

As November has just started, we are entering the month of men’s health awareness, known as Movember.  During this month, awareness is raised for men’s mental health, suicide prevention and cancer. Along with this, donations are made to help save more men’s lives, along with growing a Mo or running/walking 60km over the month to help save more men’s lives.  Here are some quick statistics for men’s health in Australia:

  • Nearly 1 in 2 Australian men have experienced a mental health problem in their life, the most common mental and behavioural conditions are anxiety related problems (62%) and mood (affective) disorders.
  • It is estimated that men account for 54% of all new cancer cases
  • More than 1.6 million of Australian men received a mental health related prescription
  • The leading causes of death for men aged 18-2 and men aged 25-44 is suicide.
  • For men aged 18 and over – 17% were sufficiently physically active and met the muscle strengthening guidelines

Currently on average, seven out of every nine suicides each day in Australia are men. This tragic statistic can be attributed to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety which increase a man’s risk of self-harm or suicide. The current statistics in Australia show that one in eight men will experience depression, and one in five will experience anxiety at some stage in their lives.

Warning signs of poor mental health may include:

  •  Feeling sad or down
  •  Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  •  Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  •  Problems with alcohol or drug use
  • Suicidal thinking


Exercise has been shown to be another helpful tool in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and depression, in addition to other mental health conditions. Exercise interventions also have lasting effects on those living with these conditions with research demonstrating that patients with symptoms of depression, on follow-up after an exercise intervention, showed long-term improvements in their mental health. There are several mechanisms in which exercise can reduce the symptoms of poor mental health and mental health conditions.

Some of the benefits of exercise are:

1. Feeling relaxed and reduced muscular tension post exercise. When we exercise, we increase our core temperature (become hot and sweaty) and this increase in temperature effects specific regions of the brain, including our brainstem which can lead to an overall feeling of relaxation and reduce any tension our muscles may be holding.

2. Increased release of endorphins. Endorphins are associated with positive mood and overall sense of well-being. Several studies have shown that endorphin levels increase following both single and multiple exercise sessions. Exercise can also be used as a great tool to start those tough but important conversations with friends or family about their mental health and how they’re doing.


In order to optimise your physical and mental health, it is recommended to do either;

  • 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity (e.g., brisk walk, golf, mowing, swimming 
  • 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity such as jogging, aerobics, soccer, fast cycling

-It is important to include muscle strengthening activities as part of your physical activity at least 2 days each week – Doing any physical activity is better than none, start by doing a little and then build up to the recommended amount