Exercise And Its Impacts On Mental Health

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The Rivervalley high school incident shocked a nation with its brutality. The peace in our society cannot be taken for granted as its frailness shows by the acts of just one.

Regardless, it is with a heavy heart that this happened, and we hope both families can seek closure and peace.

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This is an issue we have seen too often but most often neglected in our society. Mental issues ranging from anxiety and depression is more commonplace in Singapore and yet, we mostly turn a blind eye to it.

We have improved but there is still so much more that can be done. The intention in this piece is to share some light on this issue and what we can do to help ourselves or one another to see a brighter, much more pristine future.

The Blight of The Modern World

Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others. According to the Institute of Mental Health, “1 in 43 people in Singapore had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders in their lifetime” [1]

The top 3 mental disorders in Singapore – in no order are Depression, Alcohol Abuse and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Roughly 5.8% of the adult population in Singapore has suffered from depression at some point in their lives. [2]

According to the Ministry of Health, “The five most common mental health conditions that were seen at public hospitals were Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar disorder and Substance Abuse. At polyclinics, Depression, Anxiety, and Insomnia were the three most common mental health conditions. Schizophrenia and Depression were also common mental health conditions receiving service from the community intervention teams funded under MOH.” [3]

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This is due to the added competitiveness in a global industrialized world as well as the overwhelming access to knowledge and information (AKA, the internet)

A New Hope (Exercise helps)

The best way is to visit a professional medical expert in the field to get diagnosed and treated. The earlier the better. On the other hand, what we can do ourselves to reduce the probability of getting a mental illness or to rehabilitate from it is exercise.

The best and natural stress reliever nature has provided, and it has many other “miracles” as well.

Exercise has proved to improve mental health inpatients and various other benefits such as [4]:

1.         Improved sleep

2.         Increased interest in sex

3.         Better endurance

4.         Stress relief

5.         Improvement in mood

6.         Increased energy and stamina

7.         Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness

8.         Weight reduction

9.         Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness

Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function [4]

Most studies found used aerobic exercises like running, swimming, cycling, etc to show the effects it has on an individual’s mental health. Strength training on the other hand has proven to do so too but more research is needed in that field.

Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness

Yoga and its entirety are an ancient way of self-actuation, and it has been proved in modern times by science to be extremely helpful in combating the common foes of mental illness

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As researched: both yoga and mindfulness have demonstrated significant benefits in reducing the severity of depressive symptoms [6]

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There are many ways you can practise yoga and a beginner should have someone help you out initially. You can try apps like ClassPass for an easy way to attend your first class

Over Training

Overtraining is a real phenomenon and can be counterproductive in combating against or preventing mental illnesses. Always seek out professional medical advice before going to the ends of the earth for your training.

What You Can Do

As an individual, you should always understand your body and seek out professional medical help first.

Secondly, start slow. Go for a weekly swim or walk, followed by hitting the gym 2-3 times a week.

Soon enough you’ll get this routine embedded into your life and it’ll be easier moving forward.

Also, do not neglect the power of nutrition.


Mental illness is a real and prevalent issue in our country, and we should not treat it as trivial, neither should we disregard its destructiveness.

There are many resources you can use to help yourself or others if need be.

Samaritans of Singapore

Singapore Association of Mental Health

Especially for the lads, the statistics have it much worse for us, so don’t “act” stoic and suck it up. It’s always good to talk to someone. You are not alone.


1.         Institute of Mental Health. (2021, May 21). 1 in 43 people in Singapore had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders in their lifetime [Press release]. https://www.imh.com.sg/uploadedFiles/Newsroom/News_Releases/21%20May%202021_%20Prevalence%20of%20Schizophrenia%20and%20Other%20Psychotic%20Disorders%20in%20Singapore.pdf

2.         Ping. S. (n.d.). Fast Facts on Mental Health in Singapore. Health Xchange (Singhealth). Retrieved July 25, 2021, from https://www.healthxchange.sg/wellness/mental-health/fast-facts-mental-health-singapore

3.         Ministry of Health. (2020, January 6). MOH | News Highlights. https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/what-are-the-demographics-of-patients-receiving-psychiatric-treatment-and-mental-health-support

4.         Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & D. Petty, F. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. PubMed Central. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/

5.         Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevskic, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2017, December 1). Exercise and mental health. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378512217308563

6.         Sathyanarayanan, G., Vengadavaradan, A., & Bharadwaj, B. (2019, January). Role of Yoga and Mindfulness in Severe Mental Illnesses: A Narrative Review. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329226/

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