We all have mental health, just like we do physical. Yet it’s not something we tend to focus on until it’s knocking on your door, which isn’t a place any of us want to be in. I never fully appreciated the importance of exercise and mental health, until I became a full time trainer. Ironically my own training took a plunge, as did my mindset. It’s so very easy to see exercise as the key to your physical based goals, but there’s much more than meets the eye. As more research is developing, there’s been studies on this very topic. Incredibly, in some cases exercise has proven to be more effective then medication. Now, I’m not a healthcare professional but I’m fascinated by the effects of exercise. And I want to help you, help you feel healthier both in mind and body.
Can exercise really help my mental health?
Exercise stimulates the body to produce endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones. Ever felt the runners high? You can thank your hormones for that. A good workout also allows you to fully focus your mind on something else, it’s a effectively a form a mediation. It can help you lift your mood, but it’s proven to help conditions such as depression. So how does this happen? Exercise directly effects the brain. Keeping up with regular exercise helps to stimulate particular brain processes, which encourages better mental flexibility. And has been proven to better improve our ability to process or even acknowledge new information. Do you often find yourself repeating the same negative habits? By adding regular exercise into your weekly routine you might just find it a whole lot easier to change!
How do I make it a habit?
In short, we all know moving more is beneficial but it’s knowing where on earth to start right? Whilst the studies say exercise 3-4 days per week, for 45-60 minutes is what we should be working towards, let’s strip that right back and start with day one.
- What do you enjoy: It could be walking, running, lifting weights, rock climbing etc! If you actually enjoy something, you’re much more likely to stick to it. However, if you’ve no idea what you enjoy then that’s also fine. Weight training is a good place to start, you can do it anywhere and it also holds many of it’s own benefits.
- Where do you have spare time: Life is busy, it can be hard to think let alone exercise in a busy week. But if you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s time you STOP. It’s time you think about yourself, you can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself. Take a look at your diary, and work out when you can fit in your exercise. You might have to sacrifice a few things, but give it a few weeks and I promise you you’ll be so glad you’ve started.
- Start small: Just start with one day of exercise per week, then build on that. It might take you a few months to be exercising 3-4 days per week, but that’s more than fine. And remember, you don’t have to be getting sweaty every time you move. It could be a yoga class, or a brisk walk. Make sure it works for you, and you get some form of enjoyment from it.
- Find a friend: Do you have a friend or family member that you can exercise with? When you make the commitment to exercise with someone else, you’ll be much more likely to stick to it. So ask around, you might be surprised by how much more you enjoy exercising!
- Give yourself a goal: This always makes it’s way into a blog post, but it makes all the difference when exercising. It’ll give you even more reason to exercise, and if you decide to enter an event there’s nothing like finishing it, receiving a medal and seeing all your hard work pay off.
Strive for progression, not perfection
Some days you might find it hard to get out of bet, let alone exercise. So make sure you don’t give yourself such a hard time, it’s worth writing down how exercise makes you feel. So on the days you’re feeling a little crap, you can remind yourself of how it will make you feel afterwards. Don’t over complicate it, just keep it simple and take it one day at a time. I’d love to hear from you, have you found exercise has helped you in the past? Let me know in the comments!