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Be kind to your mind with exercise
20 May 2020
In recent years, studies have shown that there’s a positive relationship between doing physical activity and improving your mental health¹. For many of us, staying active during these uncertain times is something we’re doing to help occupy our time with and keep ourselves focused.
With the UK Government having recently relaxed some of the lockdown measures, people are now allowed to do as much exercise during the day as they like. We’re all aware that keeping active has a positive impact on our physical health, but some may not be as aware of what benefits exercise can bring to your mental health.
What impact does exercise have on our mental wellbeing?
For many people, exercising regularly can help improve your mental wellbeing in a number of ways, including²:
- Lifting your mood and self-esteem – when you exercise, your body releases endorphins which naturally make you feel positive and gives you more energy. Being more active can make you feel better about yourself when your fitness improves and you meet your goals, however big or small.
- Managing stress and anxiety – when you exercise it allows your mind to focus on more positive things and less on the worries or negative thoughts you might have felt. Research has shown that employed individuals who are highly active tend to have lower stress rates, compared to those who are less active.
- Improving your sleep – we all have evenings where we find it hard to fall asleep or keep waking up during the night. Whether it’s because you’re worried about something or not, moving more during the day will make you feel more tired when comes to going to bed, helping you get a better night’s sleep.
Top tips on keeping both physically and mentally active
Ease yourself into it
If you’re not usually that active, it’s best to build up your ability gradually. It’s important that you set yourself realistic goals, otherwise you’re putting pressure on yourself which is the complete opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
Do what you want to do
If there a particular part of your body that you want to focus on? Maybe you prefer cycling to going for a run? Or perhaps you’d rather exercise in the comfort of your own home instead of in a local park? Whatever works best for you, do it.
Make time for it around your schedule
However long or short, it’s important to make time to do some sort of exercise. Whether it’s a brisk ten minute walk round the block or an hour’s bike ride, doing some form of regular activity will help. According to the UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines, adults (aged 19-64) should aim to do two and a half hours of moderate intensive activity a week³.
Remember, it’s not for everyone
Although exercise can be extremely beneficial to many people’s mental health, it might not be for others. It could be helpful sometimes but maybe not all of the time, or it might not just work for you. Listen to what your mind and body are telling you and do what’s best for you.
- ¹Mental Health Foundation  – How to look after your mental health with exercise: https://bit.ly/2TnNixB
- ²Mind  – Physical activity and your mental health: https://bit.ly/3cZFIBf
- ³UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines : https://bit.ly/2WNatmZ
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