Australia’s national Exercise Right Week 2019. Nowadays, many people are aware of the physical health benefits of exercise, but few understand just how much regular exercise can help mental health. Exercise has been shown to assist many people with issues such as anxiety and depression.
So if you’re looking for a completely natural way to boost your mental health, and also work wonders for your physical health, it might be time to introduce more exercise into your life.
What is Exercise Right Week?
Exercise Right Week is an initiative of Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), the country’s peak professional body for exercise and sports science.
Recent studies have shown that massive numbers of Australian’s are not engaging in enough physical activity. According to the figures, more than 9.5 million adults were ‘inactive’ or had low levels of physical activity. And, as with most behaviours modelled by parents, this was being passed down to children and teenagers.
Exercise Right Week brings attention to very serious issues in this country, and offers ways to improve your physical and mental health.
The benefits of exercise for mental health
Regular exercise can be hugely beneficial for mental health. It has been proven to help conditions such as mild-to-moderate anxiety and depression. It is also known to improve self-esteem, stress levels, sleep, mood, memory and concentration.
When you exercise, chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin are released into your bloodstream. These chemicals directly affect your mood. For example, serotonin is the chemical that antidepressants target—so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that by exercising you can improve your overall state of mind.
Furthermore, exercise encourages changes in your brain, such as neural growth and a sense of relaxation. It also allows you to break mental patterns by providing a healthy distraction from negative thinking.
Exercise can even be used as a mindfulness activity: by focussing on the sensations in your body (rather than the thoughts in your head), you can practice a meditative state.
How much exercise should you do?
The amount of exercise you should do on daily and weekly basis will depend on your current state of fitness and health, as well as any medical conditions you may have. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to try to run a marathon after years of inactivity. You can only begin where you are—so be realistic, start small, and introduce gradual challenges.
It may be best to consult a doctor before starting an exercise program—especially if you have a medical condition.
You don’t have to start with grand gestures or ‘formalised’ exercise activities either; you can start by making small choices. For example: try taking the stairs instead of the lift at work; park the car a few hundred metres from the train station or bus stop instead of right out front; take short breaks and walk around your office; or start outside walking at lunchtime.
You may be surprised how introducing small amounts of exercise into your routine gives you a taste for something bigger—such as riding a bike to work, jogging around your neighbourhood, or joining a gym. You may also be surprised at how much these activities can help your mental health.
Find out more about Exercise Right Week.
If you are suffering from anxiety and/or depression and would like to talk to someone, please contact Diane at Pearl Counselling.