We all know about the physical benefits of exercise on your health, but exercise can also have a very positive impact on our mental wellbeing as well. The link between our mental and physical health mean that they can influence one another and benefit from each other.
Regular exercise or activity can help to prevent mental health problems worsening and can improve someone’s quality of life due to the vast benefits of being physically healthy.
Some of the benefits of exercise:
- When we exercise our brain releases endorphins – the body’s natural feel good chemicals -making us feel happier and increasing positive thinking
- Relieves stress which can reduce fatigue and improve cognitive function and alertness
- Reduce depression and anxiety – those who are more physically active have lower rates of anxiety and depression than those who are more sedentary
- Helps to control addictions which can then improve mood, motivation and attention
- Inspires creativity following periods of exercise
- Helps to boost self- esteem and confidence
- Helps to delay cognitive decline (in an older population)
- Social and emotional benefits of making friends and having fun with others
- Gives a sense of control and achievement
Exercise isn’t for me you say… There are still so many different ways to keep active and find an activity or exercise that best suits you whether this is playing games or a favourite sport, getting outside, or exercising indoors, with friends, alone with a workout DVD, high intensity exercises, or a longer than normal walk, the options are endless!
How to start exercising…
- Decide what type of exercise you like or the ways in which you enjoy being physically active
- The hardest part can be starting, but once you overcome that initial hurdle you can build on this
- Start off slowly with small, achievable goals – and then make new goals to achieve!
- Make small changes to your life – could you walk instead of taking the car? Could you take the stairs instead of a lift at work?
- Make it the right type of exercise for you and what you enjoy doing
- Incorporate activity into your home and work life whether at your desk at work, in the kitchen, waiting for a bus
- Try setting aside dedicated time in your daily lifestyle for your exercise
- When feeling stressed try a little bit of exercise instead of sitting in front of the TV
How much exercise should I do?
The current recommendations for physical exercise are at least 150 minutes (per week) of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking or riding a bicycle, or 75 minutes (per week) of vigorous aerobic activity such as jogging or swimming fast, as well as undertaking strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
However just a small amount of exercise can also make a change to our mental state and outlook, for example a 10 minute walk when feeling stressed will still count as exercise. Little and often can also be an approach that can help you to gradually become more physically active and to take control over your health and wellbeing.
It is important to remember that whilst exercise can help with the symptoms of mental health, for those in need it should not take the place of a trained healthcare professional who can appropriately assess and advise with on-going treatment.