By Petra Wilkinson, EPIC Assist Mental Health Consultant
It is well-known engaging in exercise or regular physical activity is good for our physical health. Studies have shown engaging in regular exercise reduces the likelihood of experiencing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and developing dementia.
But it’s not just about the physical; engaging in regular exercise has been shown to improve mental health and assist in the recovery of mental illness.
Links between exercise and mental health show engaging in regular exercise can help relieve symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD and PTSD. Physical activity is a powerful tool as it promotes multiple changes in the brain. Neural networks grow, natural chemicals in the brain are released which help to lift mood, neuroplasticity increases- causing your brains capacity to respond to and cope with life’s challenges and demands to grow.
Research suggests engaging in moderate physical activity may have comparable effects to the use of medication and psychotherapy for the treatment of mild to moderate depression and anxiety. In the treatment of severe depression, research also shows exercise complements traditional methods of treatment.
In conjunction with helping mental illness, regular exercise has many emotional and psychological benefits. The Mayo Clinic reports it can help-
- Improve confidence, meeting your exercise goals and challenges- even if they are small- can help to boost your self-esteem.
- Increase social interaction- Grab a buddy and catch up over a walk or jog! Exercise may give you a chance to meet new people in group classes. Just jogging through the park and exchanging a friendly smile can boost your mood.
After all this information, how much exercise do you really have to engage in for health and wellbeing? The Department of Health recommends 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity or 70 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise- which roughly levels out to 30-60 minutes a day, 5 days a week. But! Doing a little bit of physical activity is better than nothing. If you currently don’t do any form of exercise, set yourself small goals and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
Engaging in exercise doesn’t have to mean signing up for a gym membership and running on the treadmill for hours at a time. Keep it simple by going for a quick walk in your nearby park or enjoy a game of tennis with friends instead of meeting for breakfast. Even a short 15 minute walk through your neighbourhood can help to clear your mind and boost your mood.
Before starting you make like to consult a health professional for advice on the best type exercise for you.