If I could bottle exercise, I would.
The benefits of exercise to your mental health
The enormous benefits to your physical health from exercise are unquestionable. But many studies show that that people who exercise regularly have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is because exercise increases the level of serotonin and endorphins in our brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and endorphins gives us that “high”, which works like a natural mood elevator. If I could bottle exercise and give one to everyone, I would. Not only does exercise improve physical fitness but mental fitness as well.
Whether you are as fit as Rafael Nadal or you need some encouragement to begin exercise, you can take steps towards achieving fitness goals which will also improve your mental health. With the pace of modern life, it is easy to put exercise at the bottom of our priority list or to say, “I’ll get to it when I have time.”, but exercise does not always have to be strenuous or planned. It can be broken up into bite-size portions or small steps. Even 15 minutes in your lunch break or taking the stairs instead of the lift on a daily basis, can go a long way to improving your mental and physical well being.
Here are 6 Exercise tips
1.Make a plan
Just like anything, having a plan is like a blueprint to success. Set yourself some measurable, achievable and realistic goals. And when you feel confident, stretch yourself so if you don’t quite get there, you still have gone a long way. Write exercise into your diary like an appointment so that it does not get forgotten.
2. Ease into it
If you haven’t been exercising, build up gradually to avoid injury and being overwhelmed. Start with a brisk walk, then a faster pace and eventually work your way to high-intensity interval training. You do not need to run a marathon straight away.
3. Reward Yourself
Every journey needs reflection. It is important to reward yourself when you reach a goal. Look at creating some non-food rewards like seeing that movie you have been hanging out for or buying that pair of jeans you have been eyeing at the shops.
4. Give yourself a break
Ensure you incorporate some rest days into your exercise schedule to give your mind and body some time to recover. If you are starting to lose motivation, it is ok to take a break. When you feel ready again, revise your plan and focus on your goals and what you have achieved previously. There is no point “soldiering on” if you are physically and mentally fatigued.
5. Make it social or find a buddy
Having a buddy or stating or joining an exercise group is an excellent way to keep motivated. Instead of always involving food when you catch up with someone, suggest doing something physical. A buddy is a great way to keep motivated and to be challenged. Sometimes enrolling in group exercise, keeps you accountable and interested. Exercising with a buddy is especially useful when you suffer from depression as it makes your journey less lonely and gets you out of the house.
6. Find something you enjoy
This is the most important tip. There is no need to join a gym unless you want to. It is so important that you find something you enjoy. It could be bushwalking, hiking, walking the dog or running on the beach.
Nobody said exercise was easy but improve your physical health and your mental fitness will be kicking goals. Make some exercise plans this weekend.
Dr Marlene Tham
Director of Medical & Mind Weight Loss