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Exercise Improves Mental Health

Use Exercise to
Improve Mental Health

Use Exercise to Improve Mental Health

Physical activity is great for your body for numerous reasons, including having a healthy heart and enhancing your joints and bones, but did you know that it is also excellent for your mental health and wellbeing?

We need to shift the way we think about physical activity in the UK so that it is no longer seen as something we ‘have to do, “should do,’ or ‘ought to do for our health, but rather as something we do because we value the good effects it has on our health.

As part of our efforts to encourage improved mental health, we’ve created this pocket guide to demonstrate the benefits of physical activity on your own mental health, as well as some advice and suggestions to get you started.

Being physically active does not have to entail participating in sports or going to the gym. There are many methods to be active; select one that suits you and let’s all get moving!

What is the definition of physical activity?

Physical activity, at its most basic level, refers to any movement of your body that engages your muscles and expends energy. One of the best things about physical activity is that there are so many options that there is something for practically everyone!

The average adult should exercise between 75 and 150 minutes each week, according to experts. This can be a low-intensity activity like strolling, hiking, or riding a bike, or a high-intensity activity like jogging, swimming quickly, aerobics or rope skipping. Any activity that causes your heart rate to rise, your breathing to quicken, and your body temperature to rise counts as exercise!

A simple way to categorise different sorts of physical activity is to divide them into four groups:

Physical activity on a daily basis. Physical activity for adults might involve recreational or leisure-time activities.

In the context of daily, family, and community activities, transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational activity (i.e. a job), domestic duties, play, games, sports, or organised exercise

Walking to the bus stop, carrying bags, and climbing stairs are all examples of activities that can contribute to the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week for the average adult.

Exercise. Purposeful action such as jogging or cycling to enhance health or fitness or lifting weights to increase strength.

Play. Unstructured action is carried out for the sake of fun or enjoyment.

Sport. Football, squash, and cricket are examples of structured and competitive activities. We can play games as part of a group or by ourselves. This can be a fun and involved method to exercise without feeling like you’re exercising.

High-intensity activities, such as tennis, athletics, swimming, and keep-fit classes, as well as lower-intensity activities and sports, such as snooker or darts, are examples of these activities. Making exercise enjoyable rather than a chore can help you stick to your goals.

What is wellbeing?

Well-being is defined by the government as “a positive physical, social, and mental state.” We are concentrating on mental health for our aims.

Although there is no common definition of mental health, it does include characteristics such as:

  • Feeling good about ourselves and being able to function effectively on our own or in relationships.
  • The ability to deal with life’s ups and downs, such as overcoming obstacles and seizing chances.
  • A sense of belonging to our community and surroundings
  • Having power and independence over our life is a dream come true for many of us.
  • Feeling respected and having a sense of purpose

Of course, mental health does not imply that you will always be happy, nor does it imply that you will never experience negative or painful feelings such as grief, loss, or failure, which are all part of life. Physical activity, regardless of age, can help you live a mentally healthy life and improve your overall well-being.

What impact does physical activity have on wellbeing?

Physical activity offers a lot of potential for improving our health. Even a brief burst of fast walking for 10 minutes boosts our mental sharpness, vitality, and positive attitude.

Regular physical activity can boost our self-esteem while also reducing stress and anxiety. It also aids in the prevention of mental health problems and the improvement of the quality of life of those who are suffering from them.

Mood Impact

It has been proven that physical activity has a favourable effect on our mood. People were asked to rate their mood following periods of physical activity (such as going for a walk or doing housework) and periods of inactivity in a study (e.g. reading a book or watching television). Researchers discovered that after being physically active, participants felt more satisfied, aware, and calmer than after periods of inactivity. They also discovered that when the mood was originally low, the effect of physical activity on mood was greatest.

Much research has been conducted on the effects of various amounts of physical activity on people’s moods. Overall, low-intensity aerobic exercise – 30–35 minutes, 3–5 days a week, for 10–12 weeks – was found to be the most effective for increasing pleasant emotions (e.g. enthusiasm, alertness).

Stress Impact

When events occur that make us feel threatened or disrupt our balance in some way, our bodies’ defences kick in and trigger a stress reaction, which can cause us to suffer a variety of unpleasant physical symptoms, change our behaviour, and intensify our emotions.

Sleeping troubles, sweating, and a loss of appetite are the most typical physical indications of stress. A surge of stress chemicals in our bodies, sometimes known as the fight or flight reaction, causes symptoms like these. These hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline, boost blood pressure, increase heart rate, and increase perspiration rate, preparing our bodies for emergency response. They can also lower blood supply to our skin and stomach activity, while another stress hormone, cortisol, releases fat and sugar into the system to improve our vitality.

Physical activity can be a very effective stress reliever. According to research on employed adults, those who are extremely active had lower stress levels than those who are less active.

Self-esteem Impact

Not only does exercise benefit our physical health, but it can also boost our self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to how we feel about ourselves and how we view our own values. It is an important sign of our mental health and ability to deal with life’s stresses.

Physical activity has been found to improve our sense of self-worth and self-esteem. This link has been discovered in both males and females, and in children, adolescents, young adults, adults, and the elderly.

Dementia and cognitive deterioration are common among the elderly.

Improvements in healthcare have resulted in longer life expectancies and an increase in the number of persons aged 65 and up. Along with this rise in life expectancy, the number of persons living with dementia and those suffering from cognitive impairment has risen. Memory loss is the most common sign of dementia; it is a progressive disease that causes people to become progressively impaired over time.

Deterioration in cognitive processes such as attention and focus can occur in anyone over the age of 65, even if they do not develop dementia. In research looking at dementia risk factors, physical activity has been identified as a protective factor. Physical activity can help patients who have already developed the disease avoid further deterioration in function.

Adults who engage in daily physical activity had a 20% to 30% decreased risk of depression and dementia, according to studies. In adults who do not have dementia, physical activity appears to lower the probability of cognitive deterioration.

Depression and anxiety Impact

Physical activity can be used as an alternative to medication in the treatment of depression. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with medications and/or psychiatric therapy. It has few negative effects and is not associated with the stigma that some individuals associated with antidepressants or psychotherapy and counselling.

Physical activity can help those with minor anxiety symptoms and may possibly be beneficial in the treatment of clinical anxiety. Physical activity is accessible to all, comes at a low cost, and is an empowering method for self-management.

What is the recommended amount of physical activity for me?

Many people in the UK do not meet the current physical activity recommendations, as we all know.

With only 65.5% of men and 54% of women meeting the recommended levels of physical activity in 2015, it’s critical that more people get the information and support they need to make physical activity a healthy and joyful part of their lives.

Adults should aim to be active every day and complete 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity per week – the equivalent of 30 minutes five times a week, according to the Department of Health. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it isn’t as difficult as it appears, and we have plenty of tips to get you started.

Where should I start?

There are a few things to consider once you’ve made the decision to become more physically active. What else do you want to receive out of being active besides bettering your physical and mental health?

Consider whether you’d rather be inside or outside, participate in a group or solitary activity, or try a new sport. If you’re scared off by sports workouts or the prospect of limiting yourself to just one activity, consider that going for a stroll, doing housekeeping, and gardening is all physical activities.

Also, would you prefer to accomplish something alone or with a friend? Sharing your experiences, goals, and accomplishments with others is a tremendous motivator, and it will help you maintain your concentration and enthusiasm.

Overcoming Obstacles

Making changes in your life can be intimidating, and most people are apprehensive about trying something new. Cost, injury or illness, a lack of energy, fear of failure, or even the weather can all be obstacles to getting started; nevertheless, practical and emotional support from friends, family, and experts can greatly assist.

Body image might make it difficult to engage in physical activities. People who are concerned about how their bodies may appear to others while exercising may avoid doing so. Attending a female-only exercise class or a ladies-only swimming session may assist women in overcoming fear as a barrier to beginning to exercise.

Exercising with a friend can also help to alleviate concern about how your body appears to others, which is especially beneficial during the first few sessions. The surroundings can also affect how you feel; gyms with mirrored walls, as well as exercising near a window or other area where you could feel ‘on display,’ can increase anxiety.

Make time

When do you have free time to exercise? You may need to rejig your obligations to make room for more activities, or you may need to choose something that fits into your already hectic calendar.

Be practical

Will you need help from friends and family to complete your chosen hobbies, or does your active lifestyle have the potential to affect others in your life? Find out how much it will cost and what you can do to make it more affordable if necessary.

Suitable for you

What type of activity would you enjoy the most? Consider which portions of your body you’d like to exercise and whether you’d prefer to exercise at home or in a different setting, whether indoors or outdoors.

Making it a part of your routine

It can be as simple as conducting daily things more energetically or making tiny changes to your routine, such as going up a flight of stairs, to lead a more active lifestyle.

Overcoming Obstacles

Making changes in your life can be intimidating, and most people are apprehensive about trying something new. Cost, injury or illness, a lack of energy, fear of failure, or even the weather can all be obstacles to getting started; nevertheless, practical and emotional support from friends, family, and experts can greatly assist.

Body image might make it difficult to engage in physical activities. People who are concerned about how their bodies may appear to others while exercising may avoid doing so. Attending a female-only exercise class or a ladies-only swimming session may assist women in overcoming fear as a barrier to beginning to exercise.

Exercising with a friend can also help to alleviate concern about how your body appears to others, which is especially beneficial during the first few sessions. The surroundings can also affect how you feel; gyms with mirrored walls, as well as exercising near a window or other area where you could feel ‘on display,’ can increase anxiety.

Begin slowly

If you’re new to physical activity, start slowly and gradually increase your ability. Keep a record of your activities and evaluate them to provide feedback on your progress. Focus on task goals, such as increasing sports abilities or stamina, rather than competitiveness. There are a plethora of free apps and social media sites available to assist.

Set Goals

Setting objectives to track your development and motivate yourself is critical. To track your speed and distance travelled, use a pedometer or a smartphone app, complete an extra stomach crunch or swim an extra length at the end of your workout.

Keep in mind that you won’t experience results from physical conditioning every day. Making the commitment to conduct physical activity on a regular basis is an accomplishment in and of itself, and each activity session can boost your mood.

At home

There are many activities that you may do without leaving your house and for very little money. It could be as simple as mowing the lawn with more vigour, completing housekeeping faster, or following a workout on Youtube in the living room.

At work

There are numerous methods to become more active while working, whether you’re on your feet, at a desk, or behind the wheel of your car. For trips of less than four floors, consider using the stairs, walking or cycling a little longer route home, or spending your lunch hour going for a brisk walk, participating in an exercise class, or swimming. You’ll benefit from the change of scenery as well.

Out and about

Being outside is a terrific way to increase your exercise levels, and research shows that performing physical activity in a natural, ‘green’ setting has more good impacts on wellbeing than doing it indoors.

Small modifications, such as leaving the car at home for short trips or getting off the bus a stop earlier, can help to lift your mood, as can higher-intensity activities such as participating in your children’s football game or running with the dog.

Further ideas for starting or keeping up with physical activity

Exercise

Exercises for older people, strength and flexibility videos, information on taking up new sports, and advice on starting out with walking are all available to help people get started with physical activity. More exercise information can be found here.