Many of us are aware that physical activity and exercising regularly can benefit our mental health, but few of us actually take up exercise for this reason. It is important to change the way we view exercise. Instead of thinking of it as something we ‘should do’ for our health, we should look at is as something that we do because we value the positive benefits it can offer to both our mental and physical wellbeing.
With this in mind, here’s how taking up regular physical activity can improve our mental health…
Mental Health and Wellbeing Explained
Our wellbeing is closely connected to how we feel about ourselves and our mental health. Wellbeing has been defined as ‘a positive physical, social and mental state’. This can include feeling good about yourself and being able to function well both individually and in relationships, being able to deal with the ups and downs of life, feeling connected to our community and surroundings, and having a sense of purpose as well as feeling valued.
To some, all of the above might sound difficult to achieve, but it is possible to take steps towards better wellbeing and therefore better mental health. Achieving good wellbeing doesn’t mean you will be happy all the time, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t experience some difficult emotions from time to time. What you can do though is improve your wellbeing and mental health, by taking up regular physical activity, which will help you be better able to tackle the challenges that life does throw at you.
How Exercise Helps Physical and Mental Wellbeing
Have you ever ended up feeling sleepy and sluggish after sitting down for too long? This is common, and if you spend a lot of your day seated, you will soon start to find this has a negative impact on how you feel day to day. Exercise has the opposite effect, making us feel alert, more energetic and more positive.
Exercising regularly can prolong these feelings, just like sitting for too long can prolong your feeling of being tired and unmotivated. Even short bursts of daily exercise can leave you feeling more positive, ready to take on the day and whatever it throws at you.
In addition, getting involved in regular physical activity can boost self-esteem, as well as reducing stress and anxiety. Studies show that it plays a key role in preventing the development of mental health problems, as well as improving everyday quality of life.
If you’ve taken part in physical activity before, you might be familiar with the feeling of euphoria that comes afterwards. Exercising makes you feel good. You feel more positive, energetic, motivated and even more secure in yourself. Over time, these positive feelings will become normal, and if you’re ever feeling tired, grumpy for no reason or stuck in a rut, you’ll know how to deal with this – to get up, get out and get moving.
Research has found that taking part in 30-40 minutes of exercise for 3-5 days a week was the best way to encourage more a positive mood, such as feeling more enthusiastic and energetic.
It’s clear to see that physical activity plays a very important role in achieving great wellness and improving mental health. If you often find yourself feeling low, lacking confidence or feeling tired and unmotivated, introducing regular exercise into your lifestyle could be the answer.