It’s time to get our heads around exercise: The benefits of exercise on your mental health

Mental health, Mental wellbeing, we hear these terms continually being tossed around these days. Whether it be on social media, in fitness centres or in one of many books preaching the mantra of “healthy body equals healthy mind”. But what exactly does all this mean? And why is it only in recent years that are we starting to finally shed a light on much more than the physical aspects of our health?

What is Mental Health?

The phrase mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), show that this concept of mental balance is not as prevalent as we many perceive, with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, PTSD along with mood, eating and impulse disorders on the rise.

Prevalence of Mental Health Issues?

Statistics obtained from the National Survey of Health and Welfare found that almost half the Australian population, (45.5%), will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. The greatest prevalence appeared to be between the ages of 18-24 years of age. It was also found that over half the population diagnosed with a mental health concern fail to access treatment. Furthermore, the National Mental Health report of 2013 also published findings stating that the total number of people accessing services for mental health reasons was half of that compared to those accessing services for physical conditions. But why?

For too many years mental health has been perceived as a taboo subject, the elephant in the room and unfortunately, as a result it simply got swept under the carpet. This has led to many continuing to suffer in silence, afraid to speak up from fear of being negatively labelled. But thankfully times have changed. As a society, we have finally put our big girl and guy pants on and said we’re ready to remove the elephant from the room. Talking about it is the first step, however we also know that what’s good for our physical health can also positively impact on our mental health. What is it you may ask? Exercise of course!


The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

For a number of year’s, we have known the positive effects exercise and activity can have on our physical health. Stronger muscles and bones, improved heart and lung function, weight management and disease prevention to name a few, yet many overshadow the impact exercise can also have on our brain. Exercise has been shown to help regulate mood, whilst also influencing a number of factors that can contribute better mental health including:

  • Improved energy!

  • Assisting with the release of “feel good” endorphins including serotonin and reducing the impact of stress hormones including cortisol. Providing a feeling many refer to as a natural exercise high!

  • Assists with regulating sleep patterns.

  • Can act as a deterrent or distract you from daily stressors or negative thoughts.

  • Exercise such as pilates yoga and Tai Chi can also assist with increasing awareness of breathing and reducing muscle tension in the body.

  • Greater volumes of oxygenated blood are pumped to the brain during exercise assisting with improving mental clarity, concentration, memory and reducing fatigue.

  • Increased self-esteem and self-worth, it can also be a great social outlet and assist with meeting more like-minded individuals.

Exercise: how much, how often and what’s best?

The best exercise is what works best for you!

When you are feeling stressed, down, lacking confidence or demotivated the last thing many people want to do is lace up their runners and do some exercise.

HOT TIP: Start small and set goals, even blocks of 5-10mins a day can have a benefit! From there gradually build towards accumulating 30mins or greater a day. Remember consistency is the central to success!

Variety is key!

Keep the mind engaged and interested. A combination of aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, running and cycling along with resistance training such bodyweight exercise, using weights/resistance tubing and pilates have been shown to assist with mental health. Exercise focused on mind-body connection, reducing muscular tension and breathing such as Yoga and Tai Chi are also beneficial for overall management.

Exercise with others!

Exercising with others has been shown to assist with motivation, commitment and enjoyment. It also creates a sense of belonging and community.
Did I mention it also makes it a lot more fun?

So If you are looking for a way to keep your mental health on track, it might be time to schedule in a little bit of exercise into your weekly/daily routine.

And if you haven’t already, why not jump online and book into one of our reformer classes?

Your mind and your muscles might just thank you for it!

Abby & the Pilates HQ Team