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Supporting Mental Health through Fitness

Mental Health

09 June, 2016 | In: News

Exercise and physical activity can have a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of your clients. As well as being a great workout for the body, exercise is also great for the mind and can help to boost their mood - whether they’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition or not.

What is mental wellbeing?
The mind and body are connected. What you do with your body can actually have a powerful effect on your emotional and mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing means feeling good, being positive about yourself and the world around you- all things your clients will probably aspire to. Being happy is obviously part of this, but it’s also about relationships and interactions with others, contentment, confidence, self-esteem and enjoying your life.

How exercise can help
There is a lot of evidence showing the link between being physically active and improved mental wellbeing. According to various studies, exercise and physical activity can help with depression and anxiety, stress management, and improving self-esteem. A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people who engage in regular leisure-time activity of any intensity are less likely to have symptoms of depression.

Changes in the body
Exercising releases natural chemicals, such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins into the body, which help to boost your mood. High levels of serotonin are linked to elevated mood while low levels are associated with depression. Exercise can also help reduce the amount of harmful chemicals in your client’s body that are produced when they are stressed.

Man In The Gym

The type and intensity of exercise
The good thing is that any exercise or physical activity can help to boost your mood. If you’re client is new to exercise, they don’t need to assume that they’ll have to spend hours in the gym to have an impact on their mental health. Anything can help whether it’s a sport, fitness class or just going for a walk. Vary their exercise, sports and activities, and encourage them to try new things that will become a regular part of their life. Moderate intensity exercise can often work better than high intensity exercise.

New to exercise
If your client is new to exercise, it’s important for you to provide them with professional support. Allow them to explain about their mental health condition and try to design a programme that suits their level of fitness and daily routine.

Exercise on prescription
Some GP surgeries across the country prescribe exercise as a treatment for a variety of conditions, including depression. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that if you have mild to moderate depression, taking part in three exercises sessions a week can help. Encourage your client to talk to their GP about what type of activity will suit them best.

When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, exercise can make a huge difference to how you feel. By helping your clients be active, you’ll ensure they have more self-esteem and self-control as well as feeling a great sense of achievement from taking on a challenge and succeeding. There is a definite link between the mind and body- exercise can make a difference to both.

References / links
Physical activity and common mental disorders
Samuel B. Harvey, Matthew Hotopf, Simon Øverland, Arnstein Mykletun
The British Journal of Psychiatry Oct 2010, 197 (5) 357-364; DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.109.075176 http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/197/5/357

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