exercise improves mental health at any age

How exercise helps your mind, body and spirit

7 November 2020

Guest Blog by Carole Dowling – The Enjoy Movement.

We are living through challenging times right now. Exercise improves mental health and help us to cope better.

All of us are facing stress, overwhelm, and an uncertain future. There’s so much we can’t control, putting our mental and emotional wellbeing to the test daily.

Focusing on the things we can control can help us to take control of our mental health and wellbeing.

Exercise helps mental health

Exercise is something we can all do to improve our mental health and begin to feel better. By incorporating exercise into our lives, we can support our strength and resilience.

My experience of exercise and mental health

My ten years experience as a personal trainer has given me insight into just how powerful exercise is for relieving stress and anxiety. Many scientific studies show exercise impacts our mood, helping us to feel more positive and cope better.

If you’re wondering how exercise does this and how you can add exercise into your life, read on.

Exercise makes us feel great

When stress hits us, our bodies natural responses kick in. Many of us are all too familiar with the outward signs of increased stress – sleepless nights, sweating, anxiety and the adrenaline rush that leads to raised blood pressure and an increased heart rate.

The physical act of moving helps us release tension and shake off negative thoughts and feelings.

Moving our bodies regularly increases the level of serotonin in our brain. Raising serotonin levels boosts our mood and overall feelings of wellbeing.
Exercise has the wonderful ability of flipping a bad mood into a good one. If we are in a happier frame of mind this in turn helps us feel able to cope and be in a more positive mindset.

Exercise boosts self esteem

Exercise can have a positive impact on how we feel about ourselves and how we perceive our self-worth.

If you’ve ever felt daunted at the start of an exercise class, but got through it (and even enjoyed it!), you probably experienced a huge sense of satisfaction. Exercise can give us a great sense of accomplishment and pride in what we can do.

You may have run a marathon or dragged yourself round the block for a slow jog in the pouring rain. Knowing you set out to do something and achieved it builds your confidence, self-esteem and makes you feel great.

Keeping moving, keeping recognising how awesome you are for doing so, improves how you feel about yourself. In the long run, it will do wonders for your confidence and self-esteem.

Exercise keeps us connected

exercising together improves connection

My favourite kind of exercise is the sociable kind! I love combining moving my body with a chat with a friend or meeting new people.

Whether it’s virtual or in person, connection’s so important. Exercising with others gives us a double mental health boost.

If you really don’t feel exercising, having a date with a friend in the diary gives you the accountability and motivation to get out (or get online) and you will feel so much better once you do.

The benefits of exercise are well known, but for so many of us the barriers to moving are just as many.

Making exercise a priority and part of our mental health tool kit can be difficult.

Even the smallest amount of activity is proven to have benefit.
There are a number of strategies you can adopt to make it easier.

How to get started

Redefine exercise

Redefine ‘exercise’ as anything that gets you moving. When we talk about exercising for mental health, it’ s not only structured exercising such as a class or personal training session that helps. A short walk on most days or 10 minutes mindful stretching at the start or end of the day will all help.

Get out in nature

exercising in nature is a double benefit for mental health

Being out in the fresh air, particularly in nature, has wonderful effects on our mood and attitude. A walk in a forest or country park provides a change of scene. This can be a welcome relief and a wonderful restorative experience.

Start small

If you’re not moving your body at all right now, remember to start small to make it a positive experience.

Effective exercise is not about ‘beasting’ your body and not being able to walk for days. It is about moving in a way that feels good, for you, on any given day. The more you move, the more confident you will get in your ability and the more you’ll want to move!

During these challenging times remember that exercise will help your physical and mental health. If you’re feeling low and the last thing you can face is exercise think of one thing you could do to be active. Get support from a friend perhaps, but do some movement and you will find you will feel better for it.

Carole Dowling is the Founder of The Enjoy Movement, a personal training and fitness business in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  Carole has more than 10 years’ experience working with women, breaking down barriers to exercise that have been created over lifetimes.  Her mission is to positively encourage and support women to enjoy and embrace moving their bodies for life and to celebrate all the wonderful physical and mental benefits that brings.    

www.theenjoymovement.co.uk. https://www.instagram.com/the_enjoy_movement/

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