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03 Jul

How can Exercise improve your Mental Health

Thanks to The Physio Movement for this great article around the importance of exercise for our mental wellbeing.

When going through a stressful time in life, one of the first things people tend to reduce or stop altogether is exercise. Oftentimes exercise is stopped in these situations due to multiple reasons. Sometimes it is time commitments that cause stress and anxiety, so people tend to find it hard to reschedule their day to fit in an exercise session. Other times people lack energy and simply feel like exercise is going to further add to their stress.

But is taking exercise out of the equation really the best option? Most certainly not!

Can exercise improve my mental health?

There is no arguing that improving our physical health can also have a positive impact on our mental health. Physiologically, exercise releases chemicals in the body such as serotonin and endorphins which have a positive effect on our mood. When you exercise you also pump blood to the brain, which helps you think more clearly. It increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory, as well as increasing the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This helps protect your brain against injury and disease.

Benefits of regular exercise

Regular exercise has many other benefits such as:

  1. Helping to reduce stress and anxiety levels
  2. Improve mood
  3. Improve sleep patterns and
  4. Socialisation with others

Below are some simple suggestions to put in place if you find yourself experiencing stress or anxiety which may be keeping your exercise levels lower than desired!

Exercise and Mental Health planning

1. Schedule a Routine and Stick to It:

A great way to hold yourself accountable is by scheduling a daily routine which accounts for a work/life balance, including exercise, and sticking to it. Having this scheduled will help you to determine how much time you have in the day, and where you are able to fit in exercise. For example, if you finish work at 5:00pm and have planned a workout at 5:30pm, make sure you finish on time and get exercising! The work will still be there tomorrow, and the benefit is that you are going to be in an improved mood, which is likely to help with your productivity at work.

2. Try Something New:

Adding something new into your exercise routine can be a great way to reinvigorate and regain your enjoyment of exercise. It might be simple like going for a run along the beach, participating in a social sport that you may have played in the past but have stopped for a number of years, or just taking a group class at your local gym which can open up new social connections. If your normal exercise routine is quite stressful (eg. weightlifting, bootcamps, or triathlon training), then trying something different such as a yoga or pilates class can have a positive effect on the mind and mental health.

3. Find a Buddy to Keep you Accountable:

Having a friend to begin or resume an exercise routine with is another excellent strategy to stay motivated and not fall off the bandwagon. By scheduling mutual times to meet up for a walk, joining a social sporting team together, or booking into the same group class, knowing that your
friend will be going as well makes it more likely that you won’t put it off and actually attend.

4. Seek Professional Advice from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist:

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEP) have experience and expertise in the assessment, design and delivery of exercise and behaviour change interventions. This includes working with those living with, or at risk of chronic conditions, including mental illness. A referral to an AEP results in the use of motivational interviewing techniques to support behaviour change. AEPs are able to assist patients in the areas of motivation, weight loss in the face of complex conditions, education on sleep behaviours and overall quality of life. This includes social and occupational functioning, allowing for the important component of social inclusion into a persons
treatment program.

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