As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to share my own views on what I consider to help prevent mental health issues. I am not saying fitness will heal any current issues and I am by no means a Doctor, but I wanted to share my own experiences and why I think exercise can be a real mind booster for anyone suffering with their own mental health.
If I had a penny for every time I had tried to encourage someone to exercise for their health and well-being, I’d be very rich by now. I know people get fed up with me banging on about it, but getting into exercise and fitness was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m happier, healthier and I tend to be able to let go of things a lot more; such as stress and sadness.
I have also learnt new things about my body. I know I can run a half marathon (never did I think I’d be capable of doing one!), I know that I get extremely tired when I haven’t eaten at the right time, and I know my body loves carbs the day before I do cardio. I’ve also learnt that I’ll always be pear shaped and I’ll have cellulite no matter how much I work out. But I seem to care less now than ever before, and I think it’s because I’ve learnt that our bodies are capable of so much more than we can ever imagine. So that bit of cellulite that used to bother me, suddenly doesn’t because I’m grateful that my body lets me do incredible things.
Why did I get into exercise?
I tried my very first Body Combat class bout 4 years ago now. I remember being extremely nervous. I didn’t know anyone in the class and everyone already seemed friends with each other, I almost didn’t go ahead with the class. But I did. I plucked up the courage, I forgot about all my shyness and I walked in there ready to take it on. As a child I was always quite shy, and I’ll never be the loudest person in the room (unless I have wine), but out of nowhere exercise has given me a confidence that I never thought I’d have.
During my first class I remember being absolutely knackered throughout the whole hour – I kept looking at the clock counting down the minutes and I had a coughing fit that convinced me I’d just developed asthma. Turns out, I was just a bit unfit. Fast forward to 2019 and I can’t get enough of exercising! I love the feeling and energy that I get from having a good workout. When I’ve finished a class and I’m covered in sweat I get a sense of achievement and every single little stress has been let out. It just goes to show that persistence pays off, and no matter how unfit you are at the beginning – it will always get better!
One of the nice things about joining the gym is making friends. I have made friends through attending regular classes and it’s so nice to make friends with people because of exercise. You could even be working out next to someone at the gym and don’t really speak, but you see them shopping in Tesco and you give the nod of the unbreakable bond between 2 people who are members of the same gym.
So, how does exercise help your mental health? Well, here’s a bit of science for you…
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in your body, similar to that of morphine.
“A prescription of exercise can help you have a healthy mind,” says GP Dr Paul Stillman, from Media Medics. “Exercise stimulates positive endorphins, clears your head and lifts your mood. I think we’ll see more and more people prescribed exercise as a mood-booster.”
Healthy body = healthy mind
We’re starting to realise just how vital exercise is for our wellbeing, both mental and physical. New research from the Department of Health published in October 2017, reported 12 per cent of cases of depression could be prevented with an hour of exercise each week. Up your workouts to three a week and you could reduce your risk of depression by 30 per cent.
Regular exercise has been proven to:
- Reduce stress
- Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
- Boost self-esteem
- Improve sleep
Ultimately, the key is to find a workout you enjoy, because then you’ll want to keep doing it. After exercise, take a moment to notice how your mood has lifted. The bright, calm satisfaction you get after your workout will keep you coming back for more. You’ll get hooked on the feel-good benefits of exercise, not just the physical results.
So go on, give it a go! 🙂