Content Warning: Ableism
Can exercise cure your mental illness? The short answer is no.
For way too long, people with mental illnesses have been subjected to hearing the same rhetoric time and again: “Just get outside! Go for a run! It’ll make you feel so much better!” However, If the solution to my problems was to just toss on some running shoes and hit the trails, my problems would have dissolved away long ago considering how me and my partner like to go on walks. This simply isn’t the case; I still have depression and anxiety despite getting exercise.
The argument that physical activity is the ultimate cure for mental illness is flawed in so many ways. First of all, those with severe depression are unlikely to be able to get outside for such a thing in the first place. Getting out of bed to begin with is hard enough, nonetheless to get outside for a leisurely stroll. This point really undermines how debilitating mental illnesses can be. It simply isn’t possible to rely solely on physical activity as a primary coping mechanism for mental illness.
Furthermore, this argument erases the fact that there are people who are disabled who are physically unable to get outside for a walk, even if they were feeling mentally well enough to in the first place. This mentality is very ableist, meaning it’s harmful to people who are not able-bodied. If this is seen as a primary coping mechanism as opposed to medication and therapy, then what are individuals with disabilities supposed to do?
On a final note, even for people who are able-bodied and manage to get outside for a walk, just some fresh air isn’t going to help a mental illness. Perhaps for some people there will be a short term feeling of relief, but that is never long lasting in the case of mental illness; a walk isn’t going to balance the chemicals in your brain. So please stop preaching about it like it’s some instant cure for anything that plagues a person, especially if you have no experience with actual mental illness.
Trying to tell people that they can “cure” their mental illness through physical activity is very harmful and misinformed. At this time, mental illnesses cannot be cured by any means. They can, however, be controlled using medication and by attending therapy sessions. Exercise is not the one coping mechanism someone can use, and chances are they’ve already tried it, so stop suggesting it!
Thank you so much for reading, please share this article if you found it helpful to help stop the stigma surrounding mental illness. I’ll see you all in my next post!