Exercise for Mental Health
Did you know that the month of October is recognised as Mental Health Month in Australia? Here in Queensland, we celebrate Mental Health Week between the 8-16th of October. Mental Health Week is an annual initiative that aims to boost awareness of mental illness, reduce associated stigma, and shine a spotlight on individual and community mental health and wellbeing.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is defined as a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determines how we process stress, interact with others, and our decision making. Mental health is significant throughout all stages of life and each year 1 in 5 Australian’s experience a mental illness. Conditions are influenced through biological factors such as genetics, family history and brain chemistry, and life experiences such as trauma and abuse.
Experiencing one or more of the following signs and symptoms can be an indicator for mental health decline:
• Eating or sleeping too much or too little
• Having low or no energy
• Feeling numb or like nothing matters
• Having unexplained aches and pains
• Feeling helpless or hopeless
• Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
• Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry, upset, or scared
• Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
• Having persistent thoughts and memories you can't get out of your head
• Thinking of harming yourself or others
• Inability to perform daily tasks
How Does Exercise Play a Role in Mental Health?
There is mounting evidence that suggests exercise in an important component of treatment for people living with acute and chronic mental illness. Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. Regular exercise is proven to reduce stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety contributing to improving mental health status. During exercise blood is pumped to the brain which helps you think clearly. It increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory. It increases connections between the nerve cells in the brain, improving memory and protecting you from injury and disease.
How much exercise do you need?
Australian guidelines recommend moderate intensity aerobic exercise such as walking, running, or cycling: 30-60 minutes per day at least 3 days per week. High intensity resistance training using bodyweight, bands, or weights for 60 minutes 3 times per week. Whilst these are recommended guidelines it is important to start slow and build to current recommendations, the most important part of exercising is to make it enjoyable!
Top tips to exercising for mental health:
Have an accountability buddy – A friend, family member or health professional to help keep you on track during the hard days
Get outside – Exercising outdoors can help to improve energy levels and mood enhancement with decreased anger, depression and tension when compared to indoors.
Start small – Agree to 10 minutes as a minimum for exercise, this way you are keeping the habit of exercising and short duration has shown to still have mental health improvement.
This is general advice, if you would like further tailored advice to suit your needs, please get in contact with us at Sunshine Coast Rehabilitation and Exercise Physiology on 07 5445 8292 or come and see the team, we can provide you with an appropriate exercise program! Better yet, come join us for affordable group classes to help with motivation and social interactions.