When looking at the definition of health, it is deemed as: 

“The complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

The one aspect which is vastly undervalued is the impact of exercise and physical activity on our mental well-being. At Namix Performance, we have seen a significant shift in WHY our members now come to the gym to exercise over improving their physical fitness or appearance: to manage their mental health. 

Here are our six ways physical activity can support your mental health:

Exercise Improves Your Sleep

Physical activity tires the body and increases the pressure to sleep. Moderate-to-vigorous exercise increases overall sleep quality for adults by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and reduces the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night. Additionally, a good level of sleep reduces daytime sleepiness and increases your energy throughout the day. Regular exercise helps to regulate your sleep pattern, ensuring you are recharged for the next day. 

As a result of exercising improving sleep, it has been well-documented that a better night’s sleep is synonymous with things such as 

  • Increased alertness
  • Better concentration
  • Reduction in pain for those with long-term injuries

You may not thank exercise for the DOMS, but you can thank it for your great sleep benefits!

Exercise Connects You With Others

Being a part of a gym community or a sports club is great for connecting with like-minded people and supporting your social well-being. You get to feel part of something, tackle any feelings of loneliness, feel supported in your life, and exercise.

Also, according to Europe’s Journal of Psychology, sticking to an exercise routine, or training plan also makes you more reliable outside of the gym too. Since your friends can depend on you, those connections will become even deeper and more beneficial for your social life!

Exercise Boosts Your Mood

Physical activity releases feel-good hormones called Endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in your body, make you feel better about yourself and give you more energy. This is why a workout can be followed by a positive and energising outlook on life.

For exercise to boost your mood, it doesn’t have to be in a gym, for a certain duration or in a sports team, it can be as simple as going for a walk and embracing nature that will boost your mood. For example, if you have been working in an office all day, a walk in a local park would be a perfect activity which is also a change of environment that’ll lift your spirits.

In other words, this week make sure you move yourself happy!

Exercise Manages Your Stress & Anxiety

When times are difficult and stresses in life are weighing you down, being physically active gives your mind something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy. As a gym team, we often see members of our gym community use the gym as a ‘safe’ environment to relieve their daily stresses. Whether that is through weight training, hitting the boxing bag or a sweaty cardiovascular Wattbike session, we see members leave feeling so much better for it. 

Exercise can also help people that are feeling anxious feel in control of their mood. It is linked to greater resilience to acute stress and improves overall health, which can help lower and manage cortisol (stress hormone) over time. It is a positive way to cope with stress rather than adopting negative behaviours such as resorting to alcohol or drugs. By being proactive and exercising regularly, you have a much better chance of coping better with unexpected stressful scenarios in your life than if you only hit the gym when you are stressed.

Exercise Improves Your Self-Esteem

Being more physically active makes you feel better about yourself when you improve your health, achieve your goals and have more energy. When you have more energy, work and other life goals start to become fulfilled, thus increasing your self-esteem again.

When exercising, a common mistake is to focus on large, longer-term things such as dropping two dress sizes or running your first 5K. It is like looking at the mountain before you’ve taken the first step in front of you, which can decrease your self-esteem.

The key is to gradually build self-esteem through small, repeated actions. This could be consistently turning for your favourite group training session where you know you’ll be pushed hard, but the sense of accomplishment after is almost euphoric! Another example could be refining the technique of an exercise in the gym that you’ve always struggled with; once you got it nailed, it's hard not to fist pump in celebration.

Improving self-esteem through exercise isn’t done overnight, but session by session, you’ll notice that voice in your head goes from “no you can’t” to “you’ve got this!”.

Exercise Reduces The Risk Of Depression

Exercise is a powerful tool that releases endorphins which increase feel-good feelings, thus reducing negative thoughts that can feed depression. Exercise is particularly useful for people with mild or moderate depression. It has even been known that exercise is a better medicine for mild or moderate depression than prescribed medicine- plus, it doesn’t have a long list of side effects!

A study completed in America by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that ‘running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%’. From the results of this study, it is well worth adopting a daily 15-minute stint of activity into your routine - these small wins really count!

The Takeaway Points..

Exercise is medicine. However, it isn’t always easy just to start exercising if you’re feeling a little low, so here are some tips…

If you don’t know where to start, feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, just start small. It can be a short walk or a pilates routine in your lounge. It doesn’t have to be big. Gym workouts are great, but if you’re not quite up to the gym, that’s ok! Have self-compassion and scale it to something smaller, like a walk. 

If you're feeling low with an injury, speak to someone that can help you. It can be chair-based exercises, low-impact exercises, or guided sessions with a specialised trainer who will show you what you can achieve. Our team specialises in injury management so if you need any help, send us a message, and we will chat with you. 

If you feel bad about yourself and are conscious to start, begin some exercises with friends or family you trust or ask for help from expert trainers who will be empathetic and support you to build your confidence. Working out with friends, family, or trainers is like your own support team.

If you're reading this and want to begin exercising or feel you need support in your current fitness routine, get in touch with us by clicking the button below. We will contact you back with more information on how we can help!