Mental Health Awareness Week: Mental Health and the Benefit of Exercise

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The overall theme this year is Body Image, how we think and feel about our bodies.

The past few years have seen a welcome increase in the media coverage regarding mental health - how it is perceived and treated as well as how we can improve our emotional, psychological and social well-being. But did you know that physical activity has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and is beneficial to your mental health and well-being?

Last week we covered how aerobic exercise can improve the function of our brain so it’s not surprising to learn that aerobic exercise can also impact our overall mental health and, within that, potentially our body image.

Of course, anyone and everyone can suffer with poor mental health. The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey published on September 29, 2016 found that almost 40% of English adults with conditions such as anxiety or depression were accessing mental health treatment in 2014. This was up from almost one in four in 2007. The survey also found that women were more likely to report symptoms of a common mental disorder than men.

For many people the cause of mental health issues is often down to a combination of factors and Mind list many of them here. Looking at these factors it is not surprising that so many of us experience mental health problems at some point during our lifetime.

Indeed, in the BBC TV programme 'The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs', Dr Chris van Tulleken explored the treatment of depression with cold water swimming as an alternative to the more common treatment with drugs. The potential benefits are derived from a combination of exercise, the cold water and other factors such as simply being outdoors.

So, if physical activity has been shown to be beneficial for our mental health, is it not something we should all be doing? In our blog post, This Girl Can, we mentioned that the Chief Medical Officer recommends that it is important to do more than 150 minutes of, at least, moderate intensity activity a week for our cardiovascular health. Well, the same goes for our mental health, although lower intensity activities, such as snooker and darts, can also be included as far as mental health improvements are concerned.

Being physically active doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or playing a sport; any activity that will raise your heart rate, makes you breathe faster, and makes you feel warmer counts as physical exercise. Although this can indeed include competitive activities such as athletics, football, rugby and cricket, and other high-intensity activities like aerobics classes, tennis and swimming, adding physical activity into your day to day life, such as walking or cycling to work, climbing stairs instead of using the lift, playing games or sport with the family or community, should not be dismissed.

We need to think about physical activity in a different way making it, as the Mental Health Foundation mentions on their website, “a fun and interactive way of getting exercise that doesn’t have to feel like exercising”, and not just during Mental Health week but for the rest of our lives.

Here at tahdah we provide the software and infrastructure that allows like-minded people to enjoy their chosen sport or activity in a safe way and with access to qualified, trained and competent instructors where needed. If you have any questions on how we can help you/your business/your club or association/or even your awarding body then please drop us a quick note via our contact page.