I read an article the other day that talked about fitness trends for 2019… HIIT is still having its day, and there’s currently big debate about whether cardio or HITT is best?! However, it said focus is going to shift to exercising for mental health and well-being, and LISS (low intensity steady state) exercise (walking, jogging, plodding). Mental health and well-being are being discussed more openly, in the media, in workplaces, in general person to person, it’s less of a taboo topic, which can only be a good thing! Going for counselling, seeking alternative therapies, meditating, mindfulness and so on is the new norm. Promoted, encouraged, more accessible and readily available.
As a PT I’ve found more clients have come to me with mental health and well-being being the main driver for them to exercise over aesthetics, to help with anxiety, stress and depression. And this is something I can relate to personally, as this has been my main driver (and saviour in many ways!) over the last 6 months. Exercise isn’t the sole answer, I’m not about to spout that, but it can have a huge impact on your state of mind, endorphins are utterly incredible!
I came across this picture (top of the blog) on Pinterest the other week and it made me smile, as this is how I’ve described my anxiety so many times; like a huge wave is coming at me, I’m just there waiting to be wiped out, pulled under and I can’t get my breath. If it hits me (it hasn’t yet), it’s going to floor me! But in this picture, there’s a mermaid, and I’ve always likened myself to a mermaid… I LOVE the sea, always been a water baby and I’m an alright swimmer… What would a mermaid do? She’d swim right through! Now I may be the mermaid, but admittedly I have a mouth like a sailor… so now when that wave starts rolling towards me, I picture me as this mermaid, but not quite so angelic. I’m the mermaid giving the middle finger, saying some of the most offensive swear words you can string together… So, swear word, swear word, swear word, come at me… I’ll swim right through you!
Mental health benefits of exercise
- It’s an awesome mood-booster; get out of your mind and push your body.
- Relieves tension and stress; the more stressed you feel the more you need to workout, you’re better able to control cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
- Calms the mind and helps you to think clearer; switch off altogether, calm racing thoughts. As your body tires, so does your mind.
- Reduces risk of depression; exercise can reduce the risk by 20%.
- Reduces and eases anxiety; when those awesome endorphins kick in (applicable for all of the above!).
Going back to the first point about the best exercise to do; ultimately it’s what works best for YOU! What you enjoy doing, what makes you feel the best. If you don’t enjoy it, it won’t work because it won’t last… do something you enjoy, and you’ll want to do it often. Those endorphins are addictive!
With regards to exercise being the sole answer to improving mental health, this isn’t so… this is something you have to delve into deeper. Look at the root causes creating issues, anxieties and so on, and address it/them. Admittedly this is something I haven’t done myself, up until recently. I just tried to push it to the back of my mind, put it in a box… but unless you address it, it will keep coming back/louder. This is where health and well-being support services and alternative/complimentary therapies come into play. Depending on your issue/s and situation, I suggest you research, reach-out and explore the above. Something I am doing, and so far have been to see a spiritualist (may be too out-there for some) but this helped me a lot, something I have never tried before through fear of what I might be told, but this brought me calm (at the worst point of my anxiety, I’m talking I was convinced I was near heart attack stage, something a spirit confirmed!!) and assurance, and a lot of what I was told has and is coming true… mind-blowing even!! I am going to try Reiki and have started to explore crystal healing, and have referred myself for counselling, through Bury Healthy Minds, something I knew I needed and have been recommended by my doctor, colleagues and friends. Writing this blog is a form of therapy too, writing thoughts and feelings down gets them out of your head and on to paper.
This is just me sharing my journey to address my mental health and well-being, to help me swim through that wave, without getting wiped out! This is not necessarily the course of action and answers for you.
Delve into that box at the back of your mind, speak-up/out, research and reach-out!
Here’s a few links to further information on the benefits of exercise for mental health and well-being, and mental health support services.
This is something we should be talking about more frequently and openly, remove stigma altogether, share experiences and support one another. I hope this helps 🙂