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How Exercise Can Improve Mental Health

Unless you’re an avid fitness enthusiast, as a busy working mum you probably have experience yoyo-ing between diets and exercise regimes. We all want to do what we can to stay healthy, and we all know that exercise forms a huge part of a healthy lifestyle. More often than not, however, we attach exercise to a weight loss goal or general desire for physical wellbeing. It can feel like a chore, which is often why it’s the first thing to get parked when we become too busy or too stressed out.

What if I told you that you would be less stressed out, if you carved out time for exercise? The circle of stress is real. We get busy, we sideline anything we need to remain physically and mentally strong and then we get overworked, overtired, over anxious. Basically, over everything. Finding time to exercise when you are utterly exhausted in your mind and body is almost impossible and so we are stuck in a cycle it’s hard to get out of.

Now more than ever, with lockdown after lockdown, we need mental resilience. It’s time to step up your exercise/training/fitness regime. Not only to help your body, but to help your mind. Here are 5 reasons you should train, for your brain.

  1. Better sleep better mood. Getting a good night’s sleep helps regulate your mood and start your day the right way. Exertion of physical activity helps aid a good night’s sleep!

  2. Increased Self-esteem. Never underestimate the importance of setting and smashing goals. Exercise can improve our sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. People who exercise regularly often report how good achieving a goal makes them feel. (Vic Gov)

  3. Mental Energy and Creativity. Studies also prove that physical activity boosts creativity and mental energy. So if you’re in need of inspiration, your big idea could be just a walk or jog away.

  4. Lower Stress Levels. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.

  5. Help Manage Anxiety. Exercise is a scientifically proven mood booster, decreasing symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Exercise decreases stress hormones like cortisol. It also increases endorphins—your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals—giving your mood a natural boost. Even just moderate exercise throughout the week can improve anxiety, so much so that some doctors recommend trying out an exercise regimen for these conditions before turning to medication.

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Australian guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week. You can make up 30 minutes over the day by combining shorter 10 to 15 minute sessions

If you’re feeling fed-up, down, stressed, anxious, I can’t highlight enough the importance of making exercise a bigger part of your day. For mind, body and soul.

Note to self. Building good habits for a lifetime is better than sporadic idealism you won’t stick to. Higher doses of exercise may be more effective, but we might be less likely to stick to them. Start slowly and build up gradually. If you haven’t been exercising at all, start with a 10-15 minute walk each morning, and gradually increase this to 30 minutes per day.


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