Today is World Mental Health Day, and it’s a great opportunity to take a moment to think about our own mental health and that of the people we care about. It’s something I have talked about on the blog before, when I discuss fitness and health – that’s not just about building stronger muscles or being able to fit into your favourite jeans – it’s about wellness in every area of your life from your energy levels to your happiness levels. It’s about living your best life in the most meaningful sense of that overused phrase. Exercise and movement is one of the best tools we all have in the fight against conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression. What’s more, it’s a tool that is completely free and available to everyone at every age and from every background. You can stand up right now and go for a walk around the block and you are already starting to build a foundation for better mental health – how cool is that?
Why is exercise so important in the fight for better mental health?
When we talk about the benefits of exercise for mental health, that’s not just from our own experience. It’s something that has been shown time and time again in countless studies. A recent research paper found that individuals who exercised had 43·2% fewer days of poor mental health in a month than individuals who did not exercise but otherwise led very similar lives and had similar physical factors. It’s astonishing that something as simple as moving around can nearly half the number of poor mental health days suffered. Some research has even shown exercise to be as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression.
How can I start to exercise for better mental health?
People who have been sedentary for a long time often feel ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to exercise. They envision hardcore CrossFit gyms or compare themselves to the ‘fitspiration’ stars they see on social media. The best advice I can give you is to jump in and to choose an activity that is challenging for you. That could be walking around the park every morning or doing some physically active housework. You don’t need special equipment or tools, you don’t even need a gym membership – just get moving and look to gradually increase the amount of movement in your life over time. You will be surprised at how quickly you progress and the enormous benefit to your mental health.
How can I support my friends and family with their mental health?
If you’re looking to support a loved one who is going through mental health challenges, start by being available. We often pull back from mental health issues because they feel alien or intimidating to us. But being available to listen and talk can be a huge benefit to someone who feels isolated by a condition like stress or depression. You could also (if appropriate) engage in physical activities with someone you care about. Instead of enjoying your coffee sat in a cafe, get it to take away and stroll while you chat. Or suggest a group fitness class as an activity you can enjoy together. Really, just being available and there for someone is a huge benefit to their overall health and happiness.
I will be back in your inbox next week. Until then, I hope you have a fantastic #WorldMentalHealthDay 2019 and remember, you are amazing.