At this time of year, many of us make a goal to start exercising more, whether that’s committing to going to the gym twice a week or aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day.
Exercise has many benefits on our physical health. But can it help your mental health? Here’s all you need to know about exercise and mental health.
How exercise affects your body:
We all know that exercise is important for our physical health, but how does it actually affect your body? The good news is, exercise has many positive effects on your physical health according to the NHS including:
- Reducing your risk of developing some long-term conditions including: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
- It can help you sleep better and have more energy.
- It can lower your risk of osteoarthritis, hip fractures and falls (among older adults)
Exercise and mental health
Not only is exercise great for keeping your body at its best, it’s also good for your mind. According to the NHS, there is evidence showing a link between being physically active and also having good mental wellbeing. But, this doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym everyday if that’s not how you like to exercise, there are many ways to get fit.
The NHS also says that physical activity can help people with mild depression, and protect people against anxiety. This could be because exercise is thought to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to boost our mood. Some scientists also think that being active can improve wellbeing, as it can cause a growth in self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge.
How much do you need to do?
The general advice for adults aged 19 or over is to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity as well as strength exercises that on 2 or more days a week that work all your major muscles. Moderate exercise will raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. You could try:
- Brisk walking
- Riding a bike on level ground
- Doubles exercise
Strengthening exercise are important to help you maintain regular movement, build and maintain strong bones, regulate your blood glucose levels and blood pressure as well as maintain a healthy weight. If you’re not sure what to do, you could try following workout videos on YouTube, but in general strengthening exercises include:
- Lifting weights
- Doing exercise that use your own body weight, sit ups, tri-cep dips and push ups for example
- Heavy gardening, such as digging
How to get started?
If 150 minutes of activity seems like a lot, try breaking it down to 30 minute sessions 5 days a week. Try to make sure it’s an exercise you enjoy as you’re far more likely to stick to it. Why not try?
- Waling or cycling whenever you can – are you planning to go to the shops to pick up a few bits and pieces? Or how about going over to see a friend? Why not try walking instead of taking your car, that way you’re fitting in your exercise around your day – and it might not feel like exercise
- Try fitting in some strengthening exercises in the ad breaks of your favourite TV show. You could do squats, push ups, or tri-cep dips.
- Why not download a fitness app, these can help you with ideas for routines to try and help you keep track of your activity levels. Not sure which ones to try, we have a guide to fitness trackers that might help.