The focus of this blog is something that should be of interest to absolutely everybody – mental health. Specifically, the positive impact that exercise and a healthy lifestyle can have on your mental health, and what you can do to see these benefits.

Thankfully, we live in a world where there is much less ignorance towards mental illness and those who suffer from any form of mental health conditions. To coincide with this, we also now have a greater understanding of how the mind works and why it reacts in certain ways to certain situations. Throughout my college and university education, I took a keen interest in psychology and specifically, sports psychology. Some of the principles that I learned will be highlighted in this post and can be applied to all walks of life, not just to elite level athletes. For example, routines in sport can be crucial to how an athlete performs; from Jonny Wilkinson’s unique stance before a kick toward goal, to a footballer performing a prayer before kick-off – a number of athletes have their own ways of ensuring they remain 100% focused at the task in hand. The same can be applied to, for example, an anxiety sufferer; having a routine that includes 30 minutes of exercise, 10 minutes of meditation and 5 minutes of breathing practice per day could be imperative to ensure said sufferer remains on top of their anxiety and is able to function in any situations that they may perceive to be threatening.

This blog is not intended for anyone to find a diagnosis related to a mental health condition – if you have been diagnosed as someone with a mental health condition, I would like to think you could take something from this post that can be implemented into your lifestyle to ease the negative thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with your condition, whilst improving your overall health and wellbeing at the same time. Even if you are not a sufferer, I would highly recommend trying some of these tips out. Remember, mental illness does not discriminate and can affect anyone at any time; it is up to you  to develop the tools to be able to accept, deal with and hopefully overcome these life-altering conditions.

I aim to propose certain methods that you can use to enhance your overall mental wellbeing that should be of benefit to everyone, regardless of which condition you suffer from, if any at all, hence why I don’t particularly want to construct this post along the lines of “do this to help with anxiety”, or, “do that to help with depression”. The first important thing to note is that you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to see benefits from increasing you physical activity levels, in fact, studies have shown that a brisk walk of as little as 10 minutes is enough to significantly boost your mood for up to two hours! Who can’t spare 10 minutes each day?! Secondly, it doesn’t matter what age or fitness level you are currently at, everyone starts somewhere, remember – the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Introducing exercise or physical activity can often replace the need to take medication, which often does little more than mask problems. Doing anything that increases your heart-rate can help lift low mood associated with depression, improve your focus at work and give you an energy boost to make many tasks much easier. Even having that something to help clear your mind and stop worrying can make a huge difference, exercise can do just that. The World Health Organisation recommends that each individual undertakes a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or physical activity per week. This 150 minutes can be broken up however you like, for example, 5 days of 30 minutes, split into 15 minute blocks. Moderate means:

  1. That you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath.  For example, you should be able to chat with your walking partner, but not easily sing a song.
  2. That your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or very sweaty.
  3. 50-70% of your maximum heart rate (220-Age), if you want to get technical!

Like I touched on before, this doesn’t have to be activities for fitness fanatics – maybe doing the housework, gardening, walking the dog are more than enough to elevate your heart-rate to get the benefits. More simple activities will be extremely advantageous to those who are totally new to exercise, extremely overweight or a bit older; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting slowly and building things up from there – that’s what I can training wisely! For those who are already quite active, you might look to try something completely new, like a new sport, or simple increase the intensity and/or duration of you current activities.

By getting into a moderate intensity “zone”, your brain will release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine (collectively known as “feel-good hormones”), which will act as a completely natural anti-depressant for a pick-me-up whenever you need it most. This in turn can help you build self-esteem and confidence. Exercise can also help relieve tension in the mind AND body, which will often be a by-product of anxiety and stress. Not only that, but by the end of the day by using up some of that stored energy, you should enjoy better quality of sleep each night.

Now that you have a little insight as to just some of the benefits, how do you now put this into practice? I would recommend just three things to help get you started:

  1. Get a pedometer. If you are able, you should try and aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. It sounds a lot, but you’d be amazed how it adds up as you do the housework, shopping and your exercising. Studies have shown that pedometers are one of the most effective ways to stay motivated as you look to achieve exercise goals.
  2. Do something you enjoy. This one speaks for itself I think – are you more likely to stick with something you hate doing or you enjoy doing? I think we all know that answer to that!
  3. Make it a social activity. Get a friend or family member involved to help you on your journey. Often it can be really difficult to motivate yourself to get moving, so if there are two or more of you to keep each other accountable, you may be much more likely to stick at it. Remember, everyone will benefit physically and mentally from this, so why wouldn’t you want to join in?!

So, there we have it, my first blog has come to an end! Please let me know your thoughts, I’d really appreciate your feedback on all elements of this post from the length, writing style, to the content itself; I’d really value your feedback, good or bad! I was wary about going into too much depth, so please let me know if there’s anything you’d like more information on. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and it hopefully won’t be long before my next one. Good luck in your journey.


Power Yoga Plus




W| By Murray Thomson                                      

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