Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and in the first of a week-long series of blogs, Richard Jones, Cardiff University Sport, discusses the link between exercise and mental health, the potential benefits, and what you can do to get started.
“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental state” – Carol Welch
It has long been well documented that regular exercise is good for our physical health. It can reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and strokes. In recent research, regular physical activity and exercise has also been shown to have a significant benefit on our mental health. Exercise seems to have an effect on certain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) in the brain and these chemicals interact with each other, directly affecting our mood and thought patterns.
The positive effects of performing exercise on mental health can include:
- Reduction in anxiety
- Reduction in depression
- Improved self esteem
- Improved cognitive function
- Improved sleep
- Stress relief
- Increased energy and stamina
It’s not about running all day, or training for the next Olympics. It’s about taking a little bit of exercise each day to feel better for yourself. How about making time when you can do 30 minutes of walking, running or even a class in your local area? Evidence suggests that a moderate level of aerobic and cardiovascular exercise seems to work best, 30 – 60 minutes on most days, but preferably all days of the week. This can be broken into blocks throughout the day or performed all at once, depending on the lifestyle you live and what works for you. It is important that your exercise patterns stay consistent and regular as it can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks to see any long term lasting effect.
Remember, you personally always have the power to take control of your own physical and mental health. The mind and body are not two separate entities, both work together to create overall wellness within yourself. Physical activity and exercise is a powerful and effective way to improve your mental health, and should never be undervalued or overlooked.
So why not get out there – anywhere! – and take some exercise during Mental Health Awareness Week. Think about what you can do and when and don’t be afraid to start out slowly. And remember, by taking regular exercise you’ll be looking after both your physical and mental health. Good luck!