Fresh air, exercise the route to good health

Exercise, even gentle walking, as been shown to be as effective as medication in reducing depression.
Exercise, even gentle walking, as been shown to be as effective as medication in reducing depression.

The Town of Victoria Park has established three walking groups as part of its Active Life program and the benefits of such activities have been borne out by study findings released this month by UWA and Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA).

UWA researchers found suburbs with high quality green spaces and easy access to a mix of services and convenience goods, as well as public transport, could help people avoid obesity, which has almost doubled nationally in 30 years.

Assistant Professor Hayley Christian from UWA’s Centre for the Built Environment and Health said her team measured the greenness of Perth suburbs via Landsat satellite imagery and found obesity levels in people aged 16 to 65 were 22 per cent lower in neighbourhoods ‘high in greenness’.

‘Parks and tree-lined strets are typically representative of green vegetation that might promote physical activity and reduce overweight and obesity,’ she said.

‘Neighbourhood attractiveness is consistently associated with increased recreational walking.’

ESSA spokesman and University of Queensland researcher Robert Stanton said studies showed exercise was equally effective as medication or psychological intervention in reducing depression.

He found moderate-intensity exercise programs of supervised aerobic exercise, lasting 30 to 40 minutes three or four times a week for at least nine weeks, were likely to be most effective in the treatment of symptoms of depression.

Mr Stanton said exercising in a group also had the potential to provide people suffering depression with social support network and help reduce feelings of loneliness.

‘People with depression are at greater risk of chronic disease and premature death,’ he said.