Mental health and physical activity


We all have mental health, it just happens to be good, or poor. There are lots of diagnosed conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress and many of us will experience these conditions from time to time but, it’s when the periods of poor health interfere with our quality of life that it becomes a problem.

Research has shown that being more active on a regular basis have a beneficial effect on our mental wellbeing. It is recommended that we should aim to exercise our cardio vascular system (heart and lungs) for at least 30 minutes a day and do a form of resistance training where we strengthen our muscles, at least twice a week.

How does exercise help improve mental health?

It’s good for our social life - Research has shown that many people with mental health problems have benefited from physical activity, not just because of the improvement to their fitness levels, but the social aspect that it brings; meeting new people, having a place to go regularly and the enjoyment factor.

Improves our mood- When we are physically active, the body releases endorphins which are natural, feel good hormones which help us to feel happier and improve our health and wellbeing

Takes our mind off things- Concentrating on the exercise we are doing clears the mind and for a while, we have a distraction from our daily concerns

Better self-worth- seeing a change in our fitness levels, skills in a new sport or change in how we look physically can improve our self-esteem, confidence and body image.

It’s good for our brain- increased blood flow to the brain helps keep the brain healthy and protect it from toxins

Helps us to sleep better- regular physical activity can help improve lethargy and sleep patterns which helps to improve health and wellbeing

What exercises should I avoid doing?

There are no specific activities that you should avoid doing because you have mental health problems unless you have other health problems such as, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or heart disease for example. If you do have medical conditions, contact your nearest leisure centre and ask for information regarding their Exercise Referral Schemes. These schemes provide qualified, specialist fitness professionals who can prescribe exercise and guidance for a variety of health problems.

What exercise should I do?

It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you enjoy it.  If the last memory you have of exercise is a cross country run in the pouring rain when you were at school, you’re not going to have a good perception about being active and who could blame you! But, there are so many activities that don’t involve getting soaking wet (unless you choose swimming of course!)

Get outdoors - The best thing you can do if you’re new to exercise is to walk, or get on your bike.  Getting out in the fresh air, (even if the weather is bad) will do you the power of good; it really gets your body and circulation moving and clears your mind. You will also release those ‘feel good’ hormones which help to improve your mood.

Get your dancing shoes on - If music gets you going, put on your favourite tracks and have a dance around the house, or, you could attend a dance session or an exercise to music class at your local gym. Music is a great motivator and makes exercise so much fun you won’t even realise it is exercise!

Join a gym - If you would like a bit of guidance, join a gym. You will have a variety of studio sessions, a gym programme, some gyms have ar swimming pool and racquet sports to choose from.   Don’t be put off by thinking that everyone is super fit, super slim and super young; these facilities really are for everyone, no matter your age, ability, fitness level or size.

Don’t run before you can walk - Whatever you choose, try not to set yourself unrealistic goals, take things very slowly, if you’re inactive at the moment, build up how long you exercise for and the intensity gradually, Try a variety of activities, if you’re not keen on one, there will be something out there for you!

It is so lovely to see the change in people when they have been exercising for a while,

I cannot tell you how many people I have seen over the many years that I have been a fitness instructor, who have told me that exercise has literally saved their life.

Learn to relax and switch off - As well as being more active, relaxation is really important as it helps with depression, anxiety and stress; this doesn’t come easy for many people, they fidget and wriggle about but, it is something that you can learn to do. Relaxation comes in many forms, perhaps a lovely bubble bath with candles, losing yourself in a good book, listening to music, watching a box set or there are many mindfulness courses available on line that are very helpful.  Gentle activities like Tai Chi and Hatha yoga teach breathing techniques to help calm the mind and body.

If you are feeling really low, tearful, have anxiety or stress symptoms please call your GP and talk to a professional. If your feelings are mild to moderate, get your walking shoes or trainers on and get that body moving!




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