Looking after your mental health | how exercise can help
9th October 2020
Mental health is a tricky one. It is usually the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about because it’s hidden, it’s personal and it’s judgeable. Unlike a physical injury it’s not obvious; if you’ve got a cast on your leg or your arm is a sling, it means you’ve damaged yourself through some kind of mis-adventure and there will be a story behind it, people will stop and listen to that story. But with mental health the same rules do not apply.
The impact of Covid-19
Some of us; friends, family, loved ones, have had to endure unseen problems over the last 6 months, where we have been living with the uncertainty of COVID-19. With constant social constraints, the bombardment of troubling news and the obvious lurking of this viral killer, the recovery from these restrictions will weigh heavier in some than in others. This is the time where our support and patience is required most toward our most dearest. Supporting, listening, and understanding mental health could help save people in the near future.
Problems with the perception
People’s perceptions of mental health, although getting better, is still shrouded in darkness and distrust. Mental health is purely experiential, it is down to that person’s experience, perceptions, and reaction. So, where does this mistrust come from? Well we have all seen the deranged serial killer, suffering from some kind of psychosis… come on! This is a Hollywood creation to make us hide behind the sofa. The reality is that mental health problems are more subtle and nuanced than this, but our perceptions fix us in the idea that mental health is grubby, dirty and dangerous. The statistics show that 1 in 6 of us experience common mental health problems, that’s a hell of a lot of serial killers, or is it that our approaches to mental health are out of line with the reality of the problem?
How can exercise improve your mental health?
Reduced Risk of Depression
Physical activity at any level or intensity has been shown to have a positive impact on our mood. This is partly down to the fact that exercise releases chemicals in our bodies. These cause reactions in our brains and facilitate lowered stress, increased positivity, and happy thoughts. These feel good chemicals are called endorphins.
It is important to note that physical activity is not necessarily a cure for depression or mental health issues. But it be useful to promote a happy and healthy mindset. Medical advice from a doctor or a medical professional should be sought after if you feel that your mental health is not as it should be.
Improve Your Self Esteem
Self-esteem is a phrase that many will have heard of but not necessarily understand. Our self-esteem is the way that we perceive ourselves, how we feel about ourselves and how we rate our own self-worth.
So what has self-esteem got to do with physical activity? By being physical active we can feel more positive about our body image, achieve things we did not think we were capable of and create a sense of purpose and progress. Simple!
Generally, if we are tired then we sleep better. But being physically active increases the likelihood of a good night’s sleep for more reasons that just making us tired!
Physical activity helps to reduce stress levels and anxiety. This helps us to ease restlessness as well as reducing the risk of developing sleep disorders and issues. Physical activity can also help increase the quality of our sleep. When we are more active, we spend more time in deep sleep which is the restorative phase of sleep. This helps to boost the immune system, cardiac health and also reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Exercise makes us tired and less energetic right? Wrong!
In fact, being more physically active can actually increase our energy levels and make us more productive. Exercise trains our hearts to work more efficiently. This means it is able to support the muscles in our bodies more effectively and giving us that feeling of energy.
When our hearts work more effectively, it also helps to boost brain function and alertness. Head and heart working in perfect harmony! Why not find out how good a bit of additional movement could make you feel?
Talk about it
While we hope that exercising does help, it is so important to talk about how you are feeling. Starting to talk about our own mental health is an important mechanism to allow for us to be more mindful and support, not only, our own, but friends and family as well. Approaching mental health in a non-judgmental way, where we appreciate that everyone has had a different journey to come this same point in time and that we will continue on in our different journeys again, is a great way to understand the difference in perspectives we hold. Often talking to someone with this non-judgmental way, listening to them and letting them know you are there for them can help on that road to recovery.
What can you do?
If you are worried about you own, or a loved ones mental health please visit https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/ for free help and guidance
If you would like to increase your physical activity, you can sign up for our free Move More classes, which currently running both online and in person.