Last week was mental health awareness week and, with a survey from the Mental Health Foundation showing that almost two thirds of people reported experiencing a mental health issue, it’s something that can affect us all.
Fortunately, more people are discussing mental health now than ever, in the hope that the stigma attached to suffering with mental illness may be abolished.
Everyone’s mental health is unique and effectiveness of interventions and or therapies can vary from person to person. However, according to the mental health charity Mind, regular physical activity can be more effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression than medication. If you missed it the first time around, the BBC’s Mind Over Marathon is a great example of the benefit exercise can have.
How can exercise improve mental health?
- Stress Reduction
When you exercise, your body produces more of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisone. This might sound counterproductive, but the more you exercise the better your body gets at working with stress producing hormones, in essence it becomes more resilient. This controlled exposure to stressing the body can improve management of stress in the long term.
- Clarity and calmness
Focussing on physical activity whatever it may be, distracts the mind from ongoing thoughts which may be whizzing around and contributing to feelings of anxiety of depression.
- Improved Mood
Exercise increases the production of endorphins, commonly known as your “feel good hormones”.
- Improved Self – Esteem
This may be from learning something new e.g a new sport, improving body image with more physical activity or meeting new people.
What sort of exercise?
Do what makes you happy! If you like being outdoors join a running club or if you prefer loud music then consider dance classes. You are more likely to commit to long term physical activity if you make it fun for you!