A cartoon of a brain lifting weights

When there is uncertainty:

There are implications on our lives, and on our mental health. During this uncertain period, we are all adapting in different ways. When there is so much out of our own control, it is important to focus on the things you can control.

If you are finding that your mental health is suffering:

There are a few things you can do. Firstly, it is important to reach out to your friends and family. It is ok to say that you are not ok. I have found that one thing that can help is setting a daily routine. Just like being back in school where you have a timetable. Set a timetable of your day where you fit in your work, exercise, meal prepping and any other hobbies you might be into. By doing this, you are taking control.

What is the connection between physical and mental health?

There is a lot of research supporting the fact that exercise can help our mental health and is even often neglected as an intervention in mental health care. Exercise does not have to be complicated; you do not need equipment; you do not need to do a 45-minute HIIT class to gain the benefits of exercise. You could do something as simple as going for a walk, a jog, a cycle, gardening, even doing a little dance every now is enough to release those endorphins, improve your mood and reduce anxiety and depression.

If you are reading this thinking “I need to exercise more”:

The very first step I would suggest to anyone is that the first thing you do before work is to get outside and go for a walk. Whether that is for 10 minutes, half an hour or 1 hour. You can start off with 10 minutes and day by day, week by week start to increase the time you spend outside walking. It is as simple as that.

Why does exercise improve mental health?

Exercise increases blood circulation, improving mood

Research has stated that when we exercise, these improvements in mood are caused by an exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and therefore has a positive physiologic reactivity to stress.

Exercise provides a distraction, allowing us to temporarily forget our anxieties

Is that it provides a distraction, how can we think of all the unknowns whilst we are focusing on the exercise at hand. How can we focus on all that is negative when we’re out trying to reach our exercise goals, and trying to gain those little wins. It also improves self-efficacy which is the belief that one can successfully perform a given activity. So, gradually, this connection you have with exercise will become more and more positive, especially as you start to notice differences in the way you move, or your breathing, or your strength. You will start to perceive fewer barriers and engage more in self-regulatory behaviours which is the ability to manage your reactions to feelings and things happening around you.

Can exercise reduce anxiety?

Yes, exercise can help to reduce anxiety. Regular exercise can help both depression and anxiety because feel-good endorphins are released during exercise, which can enhance your sense of well-being (source: Mayo Clinic).

What type of exercise is best for mental health?

Aerobic exercise is great for mental health. A study undertaken by Daniel M LeBouthillier and Gordon J G Asmundson found that just one single bout of aerobic exercise reduces anxiety sensitivity, and further studies have found that the following exercises are great for alleviating symptoms of anxiety:

  • Cardio
  • HIIT
  • Walks – particularly in nature
  • Yoga

So, let’s get moving!

Let us go out more in nature. Create exercise goals and make those little wins happen. Your mental health will thank you for it!