Exercise and mental health

Jeremy Johnston Do More Movement
Jeremy Johnston Do More Movement

Now that the evenings are lighter for longer and the weather is a little warmer, I find it harder to keep up the excuses for not getting out in the fresh air and doing some exercise.

Research has shown that exercise is incredibly important for good mental health, with regular exercise strongly linked to recovery from mental health problems:

‘If you keep active, you are:

  • less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense
  • more likely to feel good about yourself
  • more likely to concentrate and focus better
  • more likely to sleep better
  • more likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit, such as smoking or alcohol
  • more likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older
  • possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia.’

From the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists

In conjunction with one of the most persuasive fitness fanatics I know, personal trainer Jeremy Johnston, (who also happens to be my brother!), have a look at these top tips for getting started and maintaining your motivation:

Train for health and enjoyment:  If you're not enjoying your training or workouts do something new.  Try a new class or ask a personal trainer for some help. If you don’t enjoy jogging that doesn’t mean you’ll hate the adrenaline rush of hill sprints. Bored of the gym? Try rock climbing. There are hundreds of ways to challenge your body and mind at the same time and it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be a chore. Keep trying new things until you find something that gets you fired up and excited.

Ignore 90% of social media:  It's not real and won't make you feel better about yourself.  Stick to the profiles that make you smile and inspire and motivate YOU, avoid the rest and don't worry about what other people are doing.

Set new goals: Whether your goal is weight loss, waist size or completing a 10km run, ensure you have a relevant target to keep yourself challenged. Try having short, medium and long term goals so you are always working towards something that’s within sight. Don’t be afraid to change them. They are your goals and no-one else’s.

Invest in your well being:  Whether that means buying a Nutribullet to make your own juices, buying new gym kit or an expensive watch that records steps/calories and everything else, do it.  If the money helps to build good habits and routine, it's money well spent that will more than pay back in the long term.

Indulge occasionally: You're not a professional athlete so you don't need to eat & train like one.  Eat ice cream, eat pizza.  Just make sure it's part of a balanced diet and don't indulge to excess.

Don't stress and panic about falling off the wagon: Everyone does it.  Just remember what you're wanting to achieve and why and go again.

Be totally honest with yourself:  More often than not we know if we are taking an easy option.  Stop and think about your decisions before you make them.

So, what is stopping you?

If you want to find out more about how mental and physical health are related, have a look at these links:

Whether you are going for a walk, a hike in the mountains (perhaps easier for my Norwegian readers!), a run round the park, training for a fun run or even a marathon, yoga, boxing, weight lifting, swimming, Nordic walking, playing a team sport, sailing or getting competitive on the tennis court, keep it up!