Shining a Spotlight on Mental Health This World Health Day

Nutrition, Physical Activity | April, 07 2017

In honor of World Health day the Council is joining a conversation about mental health and depression. The World Health Organization (WHO) established World Health Day as the annual celebration of its founding in 1948. This year, WHO puts the full weight of this global platform behind efforts to diagnose, treat, and prevent one of the world’s most consequential maladies: depression.

Depression impacts people of all ages, races, and nations. In any given year, it affects about one in ten Americans. It disrupts relationships, careers, and lives in ways large and small. The Council echoes WHO’s #LetsTalk call for conversation about this all-too-common condition. By opening up the dialogue, we are better positioned to end the stigma around depression and explore ways to protect your mental health. There are protective actions you can take to improve, maintain and protect your mental (and physical) wellbeing?

The first of those protective actions is regular exercise. Research shows a structured exercise program can actually help alleviate the symptoms of clinical depression. Physical activity can reduce fatigue, improve concentration, and promote social engagement. One study shows just 30 minutes of walking for ten days in a row can result in a reduction in depression.

Not a runner? No problem. Turns out, just about any aerobic exercise diminishes anxiety and depression. Swimming, cycling, dancing, gardening, walking, or rolling — take your pick! For most adults, the recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Whatever exercise you choose, being consistently active has long-lasting mental and physical health benefits.

Vitamin D may also help fight depression. Most Americans are deficient in the “sunshine vitamin,” produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight. People battling depression and other forms of mental illness typically have low vitamin D levels. Research shows that those who exercise in bright light experience fewer symptoms of depression than those who exercise in normal light. So you might consider getting outside and active during daylight hours. There are also dietary sources of vitamin D: eggs, some types of mushrooms, and certain fatty fish and fish oils. Talk with your doctor about having your vitamin D level checked, to find out whether you need a supplement.

Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques also have proven benefits to reduce depression. What new healthy habits will you commit to on this World Health Day? Your best life is waiting for you. Check out the resources on Exit Disclaimer to help you start your journey to a healthier life today!

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