CAN EXERCISE BOOST MENTAL HEALTH?
In the last few years people have started to talk far more openly and honestly about mental health however it is still something of a taboo subject.
We are already seeing positive changes because celebrities, athletes and even the Royal family are being far more vocal about their individual challenges. As a result people are beginning to accept that mental health is something we need to focus on and therefore try to understand how we can improve it.
One of the most easily accessible things we can do to help is exercise. It has been proven to be both physically and psychologically beneficial. Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Often people who exercise do it because it boosts your mood, improves concentration and give you a positive outlook on life. In fact exercise can help with mental health in a number of ways:
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Positively affect mood and enhance sleep
- Raise self-esteem and cognitive function
How often should I exercise?
Regular exercise can help boost mental health but regular exercise means different things to different people. For some going out on a 10km run or training intensely multiple times per week is the best tonic for them.
For others a couple of short walks per day or lower intensity training might be more beneficial. Equally some people prefer the camaraderie of team sports and the challenge of competing.
The key thing is that you incorporate exercise into your life and, if you want to, you can increase the intensity and frequency of it over time.
How do I start?
OK, so now we know that exercise is really beneficial both for our mental and physical health the real world problem of actually transitioning from ‘exercise is something I should do’ to ‘exercise is something I want to do’ is the tough part!
Starting anything new, venturing into the unknown, is always daunting and the fear of failure can hold you back. Equally motivating yourself to start, sending an enquiry, committing to the first session, taking that first step, is the hardest part. However there are lots of things you can do.
Understanding why you want to start training and what you want to achieve is central to your success. Working out whether you want to train individually or as part of a team is also key.
Once you’ve done this then find out what’s on offer near you, ask friends or look online. It can be intimidating to start exercising if you haven’t done it in a while, but a plan can help you start and stick with it. Some places to look:
- join a local gym
- join the local running club
- sign up to a football/rugby/hockey team
- search for online fitness classes
Exercise on its own won’t cure mental health problems but it is definitely part of the solution and everyone should try and include some in their daily lives.