Mental health

Mental health and exercise

I'm a true believer of exercise improves your whole well being, not just fitness but your mental health!

Being active is great for your physical health and fitness, and evidence shows that it can also improve your mental wellbeing.

We think that the mind and body are separate. But what you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing means feeling good – both about yourself and about the world around you. It means being able to get on with life in the way you want.

As you are all aware I hit a pretty bad low in my life where I suffered with depression and bad anxiety. I would not leave my front door unless I was with someone or going somewhere nearby. I hated public places and use to panic if ever I had to get on a bus or go into town. I worked in Burtons in town at the time which was a big struggle for me.

I truly believe that getting into fitness has made me the person I am today. To why it is a very important subject for me, one I truly feel strongly about.

Physical activity is thought to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood, this happens by getting those natural endorphins pumping through our body.

We often talk about the mind and body as though they are completely separate – but they aren't. The mind can’t function unless your body is working properly – but it also works the other way. The state of your mind affects your body. So – if you feel low or anxious, you may do less and become less active – which can make you feel worse. You can get caught in a harmful cycle:

  1. You feel tired or Depressed = You should do less
  2. You feel even more tired or depressed = You do even less again, missing out on things you enjoy.

Your body needs regular exercise - and most of us feel good when we are active.

However a lot of people are put off by the word exercise

  • I’ve never done it
  • I wasn’t good at sports at school
  • I would feel silly
  • Other people would make fun of me
  • It won’t help unless it hurts - ‘No pain, no gain’
  • It’s sweaty and uncomfortable
  • I’m too tired
  • I would rather do something else
  • It’s expensive
  • I think it will make me feel worse
  • I don’t have anyone to do it with
  • I don’t know where, when or how to start

But - it doesn't have to be about running around a track or working out in a gym. It can just be about being more active each day – perhaps just walking more, or taking the stairs rather than the lift. If medical problems stop you from doing one thing, there may be others that you can do.

If you keep active, you are:

  • Less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense
  • More likely to feel good about yourself
  • More likely to concentrate and focus better
  • More likely to sleep better
  • More likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit, such as smoking or alcohol
  • More likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older
  • Possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia

So don’t worry about not doing enough – get started by building a bit more physical activity into your daily life now. Even a small change can boost your morale, give you a sense of achievement and help you to feel better in yourself.

Why does exercise work?

  • Exercise seems to have an effect on certain chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking.
  • Exercise seems to reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by stress

Activity should:

  • Be enjoyable – if you don’t know what you might enjoy, try a few different things.
  • Be shared. Going to an exercise class or working out with a partner/friend can make it more enjoyable and a social activity.
  • Help you to feel more competent, or capable.
  • Give you a sense of control over your life – that you have choices you can make (so it isn’t helpful if you start to feel that you have to exercise). The sense that you are looking after yourself can also feel good.
  • Help you to escape for a while from the pressures of life.

I have always pushed the fact on how exercise is not just about losing weight. It helps us to feel good about ourselves and gives us energy. Health wise and mentally is such a big benefit also.

Personally I love how elated I feel after a good workout and how it boosts my confidence. You feel great and ready to tackle your day ahead. I honestly do not think I would have overcome my anxiety as easy as I have done without it. Do not get me wrong, it was a tough time and I still get small blips of anxiety but nowhere near as bad as I did. I actually travel places and get on public transport without really worrying. Trust me exercise is an amazing overall medicine for our body.

Do something for you today, however big or small. It’s all in the name: feel Good Fitness. :)