Looking after your mental health through physical activity and exercise

By lucy bourne May 11, 2020

Kevin Morris, Everybody’s Health Referral Lead shares support and advice on how exercise can help our mental health:

Looking after your mental health through physical activity and exercise

You have probably already heard being active can help with your physical health in terms of weight loss, reduced likelihood of developing lifestyle illnesses, diseases and cancers as well as reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels and maintain good bone density.

Another great benefit to being active is something you might not realise you already know. You feel it pretty much instantly after you take part in some form of exercise or movement. How do you feel when you have finished exercise? Pretty good I’m sure is the answer! Well, so you should, you set a challenge and you gave it a go, well-done you. And that’s the other benefit, for your mental health.

The pressure from work or family life can seem problem free once you have done your workout, gone for a run or a brisk walk. Many say exercise is the wonder drug. I like this example and the benefits of being active are enormous, but I wouldn’t want to just take a drug. I like to participate, meet people to socialise, set a challenge, fail and try again and feel I have earned the rewards.

So what is Mental Health?

Mental health problems are in fact the most common health condition. Mental health foundation (2009) found mental health affects 1 in 4 people. I’m sure this figure is higher now with the increased pressures from life including social media, work and family balance, financial, health, life events and our current situation where COVID-19 is know around the world and currently stopping us live our normal routines or way of life. There’s a range of mental health conditions such as bipolar, substance abuse, personality disorders, eating disorders. In my time of my profession I have found the most common types of mental health conditions are depression, stress and anxiety.

Why should we be more active for our mental health?

Healthy and poor mental health can impact how we as an individual thinks, perceives, responds, behaves as well as also influences our personality, intellect, and emotions. A brisk walk in the afternoon can boost our serotonin levels, which is a hormone from the brain that regulates moods, happiness and anxiety.

Mental health conditions like stress can take a toll on some of our bodily systems, particular our immune system and can lead to diseases. So if you’re feeling stressed out, feeling down or over whelmed, this is a sign you need to take care of yourself and prescribe yourself some exercise in your life; anything that gets you moving; dancing, walking, gardening, structured exercise like our LIVE classes we put on each day to get that extra boost of serotonin.

Exercise can be quite therapeutic too. I find this more so when I exercise on my own by going out for a walk or run. This gives me the head space to put the world to right. Many times I have received a dodgy email, made a mistake at home or work and I just step away from the environment put on my running shoes and go out for a run. During the run I have the time to think about my response, what’s happened and how I can put the misshaped puzzle pieces together to see the full picture again. When I get back, I’m more focused and have better perceptions of the situation much more than I would have if I just sat their overthinking it.

 What types of exercise should I be doing to help me?

This depends on what you would like to achieve or finding the source of your change in behaviour. If you’re feeling lonely taking part in a LIVE exercise class can help give you the feeling of exercising in a group. Train with friends online and use this as a topic to talk after. The benefits of a LIVE class is that you can interact with the instructor, talk to friends and know 100’s of people are taking part at the same time as you can help you feel less lonely.

If you need head space, I would suggest going for a walk or run to give you that thinking time. This can be done anytime and for as long or short as you need it to be. Just put on the running shoes and off you go.

Looking for some ‘me time’? Relax and clear the mind with our instructor’s Victoria and Kat who offer LIVE Mind and Body workouts each week, including, Stretch and Tone, Pilates, Hatha Yoga and more.

You might be feeling frustration and need to release some tension. Taking part in our HIIT workouts  can help distract the mind as you’ll be focusing on what you’re doing rather than your days stress.

Guided Meditation which is new to the timetable, will take place during Mental Health Awareness Week, Monday 18th May, 8:00am and will last 30minutes. The LIVE Everybody Guided Meditation session will be a calming session focusing on relaxing the breath and setting intentions to begin your day on a positive note. Meditation can have great benefits to focus the mind, body and soul, relieve tension and anxiety, aid sleep and support good mental wellbeing.

Whichever class you take part in – make sure it’s fun and safe. We also provide specialist exercise LIVE classes from our instructor Tracy and me so everybody feels inclusive and able to take part and we’re always looking to add more to help more people.

If you’re still unsure where to start or looking for some support in achieving your goals have a look at our tools we have provided free for you to use. Try our workout planner below. Set some goals like ‘this week I’m going to try 2 classes’. Monday Everybody Stretch & Tone and Thursday Everybody Get Moving. At the end of the week, reflect on how you did and felt. If you didn’t do all your set classes, reduce your goal or change the class to a lower intense one.

Disclaimer: Please take reasonable precautions to prevent damage or injury. Please do not participate in workouts if advised by your doctor against.

We love to hear how you’re doing and your achievements so don’t forget to get in touch and let us know how you’re doing. There are people in the same situation and talking to others can help as well as set inspirational stories. So please help us by sharing your goals and let’s help more people.