5 mins

The importance of exercise on mental health

Get your mind and body in shape for the ultimate wellbeing

How exercise impacts your mental health, and vice versa

Since it’s Men’s Health Week from 11-17 June, we wanted to explore the topic of the connection between exercise and our mental wellbeing. After all, when it comes to mental health in particular, people often simply think of two people sitting in a room, discussing their problems. However, good mental health covers so much more. Good mental health can free your entire system of energy, which your physical body can use to do more and ultimately, get more out of life.

In this article we’re going to explore the physiological connection between the mind and body, and inspire you with ways to improve your overall wellbeing today.

Progress is the key to happiness and wellbeing

Think back to a time where you felt stuck in life. Or perhaps you might be in a holding pattern right now. Well, this could be due to the lack of motion in your physical body. Amazingly, bad physiology has a domino effect on our mind – as motivational speaker Tony Robbins states, “motion creates emotion” and when our bodies aren’t being exercised, all supporting energies within us also stagnate. Our thinking can become repetitive. We’ll cycle through the same old thoughts, and watch the progress within our lives plateau.

Many motivational speakers talk about the need to use our physical bodies to create peak mental states, which will enable us to get a good rhythm of progress going in our lives again. Techniques are as simple as:

Standing up straight with your shoulders back: which is said to instantly show courage on a subconscious level, as you aren’t afraid to expose your chest and vital organs to the outside world.

Smiling: as Thich Nhat Hanh says “sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy”.  Smiling activates a release of neuropeptides that help combat stress. It can also release endorphins and serotonin, which can both uplift your mood, lower your blood pressure and even relieve mild pain.

Deep cleansing breaths: mindful breathing, where you visualise yourself breathing in pure energy and breathing out any stressful energy that your body might be holding on to, can instantly help uplift your mood. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system and oxygenating our bloodstreams and consequently our brains, deep breathing has been proven to instantly relax the physical body.

Risks associated with a lack of exercise

As Mind UK notes, those who have mental health problems are at a higher risk of developing physical health problems than people who are mentally healthy. Their statistics show that people with mental health issues are:

  • twice as likely to develop heart disease
  • four times as likely to die from respiratory diseases
  • on average, likely to die between 10 and 17 years earlier than the general population, especially for those who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Mental health benefits associated with exercise

There are so many benefits to your mental health when you exercise your physical body. The following are just a few examples:

Improved sleep: when you’ve been very active during the day, it’s more likely that you’ll experience deeper and more restful sleep at night.

Reduced risk of illness: experts suggest you can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and you can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure with good exercise.

More energy: your body will start to experience more energy from natural boosts of endorphins and serotonin.

Reduced anxiety, stress or depression: the release of feel good hormones (including endorphins and serotonin as mentioned above) can lift your mental state out of negativity and into happier moods. Your body will also be able to better manage your cortisol levels as well.

Clarity of thought: your mind will benefit from being more clear and calm. Many people find that exercise helps them break cyclical thoughts and releases energy, so they can be more creative or attentive in their relationships.

Increased self-esteem: seeing your fitness levels and physical body improve provides an instant boost to your self-image. You’ll be feeling more confident and more equipped to take on challenges in your life, simply because you have more energy.

Increased academic performance: as well as physical exercise improving health and well-being, studies show it can also improve one’s ‘overall performance in the classroom.

Connecting with other people: whether or not you socialise at your gym or dance hall or yoga studio (or wherever you choose to exercise), doesn’t matter. Simply being around other people is good for your mental health. Plus, if it’s an activity you enjoy, like dancing, researchers have proven that there’s a link between activities we enjoy and improvements to our overall wellbeing.

Overcoming barriers to exercise

There can be many barriers to starting a new exercise regime. People suffering from certain mental health conditions or conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome are sometimes so exhausted that it’s difficult to even contemplate starting an exercise programme. Some people lack self-esteem or may not be confident about the appearance of their bodies. Some people on medications might be worried about taking on too much at the start.

If you are wondering how best to incorporate physical exercise into your life in a way that supports the improvement of your mental health, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.

Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni

10 June 2018

"Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector."

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Athena Lazaridou

Athena is a Pilates instructor with 8 years’ experience in the field. After completing a Power Pilates Mat Certification in Athens, she went on to complete the Full Comprehensive Classical Pilates Certification with Equinox in Kensington.  She has been teaching Pilates at Equinox for the past 6 years in addition to her own private clients who she trains both face to face and virtually.

Athena has a passion for helping people get stronger and fitter as well as helping those recovering from injury regain their strength and mobility.  Over the years, she has worked with athletes to incorporate Pilates into their training and improve performance. Athena has also worked with prenatal and postnatal women who may be experiencing depression or other mental health difficulties and used Pilates to facilitate a positive impact on their mental health.

Athena is very passionate about improving physical and mental well-being and has recently incorporated Sound Healing into her work, as she believes it to be one of the best ways of ‘letting go’ and releasing stale energy whilst increasing greater self-awareness.