The Wellness Universe supports wellness holistically.
We know supporting mental health is a foundation to a healthy life filled with wellness. As we expand on the self-help points from the article Ways to Better Mental Health Drug and Doctor-Free, this week we will discuss some of the benefits that regular exercise has on our mental health.
We thank Nancy Stevens for her contribution to this article.
Nancy Stevens is a life coach who works with women who want to own their unique authentic identity while making self-care a priority instead of an afterthought. Nancy has completed her yoga teacher training and went on to become a Health and Wellness Coach. Working together with her clients, Nancy creates a plan for a work-life-balance that is easy and achievable so you can feel energized and in control again.
Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.– Carol Welch
What’s with all the hype today regarding mental health and exercise coexisting with the use of technology?
Technology is undeniably at the center of life as we live now. With technology in all areas, it isn’t necessary for us to get up and out the door as a means to get things done like it used to be in the not so recent past? Smart devices such as “Alexa®” follow our commands to close the blinds, turn on the tunes, order take out, etc.
Anything we want and need can be ordered and delivered to our door, as we sit feeling relaxed with no need to get up and move to make these things happen. This relaxed, more convenient lifestyle is a good thing, right?
Yes, and equally no.
Our lifestyle today has become comfortably convenient in many areas, including smartphone exercise apps! While conversely seeing marked increases in both mental and physical health issues.
Scientific studies and research are still in the early stages with technology and mental health research. An article from Bradley University said, “the very tools that can help alleviate mental health issues such as smartphone apps, may be linked with the experience of mental health problems in different contexts.” (*)
There are numerous scientific studies linking the benefits of exercise to better mental health.
A recent study following participants over a four-year period found that those individuals who engaged in regular physical exertion experienced substantially lower levels of depression and anxiety as compared to sedentary individuals. (Ströhle et al. 2007)
While it is highly recommended you work with mental health care professionals for treatment, you’ll also find alternative solutions very empowering, and as a key solution for improving and managing mental health. Exercise tops the list as a proven means for mental health management and mood improvement.
If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.– Hippocrates
Here are some of the mental health benefits exercise provides:
• Increased energy.
• Self-Esteem and confidence.
• Improved sleep.
• Physical and mental resilience.
• Sharper memory and thinking.
• Increased serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone).
How much exercise do I need daily/weekly to see gains?
The Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) recommends 150 minutes or more, which breaks down to 30 minutes of moderate movement daily or 75 minutes of more vigorous movement. The more you exercise, the greater the results and benefits. However, any exercise is good, and one type is not better than another. (**)
Here Are 6 Easy Ways to Add in Consistent Exercise:
1. Make a list of your actual “unscheduled” time.
Although this tip isn’t an “exercise,” it’s foundational. Your survey will make known to you what time is available and what time isn’t. This information provides your current roadmap of best times and days to schedule yourself as a priority, versus finding unaccounted time in an ever-changing schedule. Simply start where you are, with the time that you have!
2. Ten-minute workouts.
See gains in your mood with ten intentional minutes of daily movement. If you are short on time, brief bouts of exercise such as two or three ten-minute movement chunks offer great benefits and results over time. A habit such as a short ten-minute bout of walking/jogging/yoga/cardio burst becomes anticipated by our emotional center when done consistently. Our brains become positively wired for this activity and begin to “crave” it. Feed your brain with feel-good exercise-induced hormones and it will see to it that you continue.
Get creative by standing up at work with a stand-up desk, if this is an option. Incorporate upper and lower body chair exercises and stretches to release stress and muscle tightness from being seated. For creative ideas do a quick online search for “desk exercises.” Take mini-movement breaks throughout the day as these count for movement and steps!
4. Walk at work.
If time allows, while on your lunch, take a solo lunch walk or go with a group from your office. You’ll be amazed at the increase in your energy and productivity just by being outdoors and walking. The benefits of connecting as you walk with others is an additional feel-good bonus!
5. Hire a personal trainer.
A great way to start, or if you’re coming back after an exercise break is to partner with a trainer who will support and guide you on your fitness journey. This will take the guesswork out of what to do and how to do it correctly. You will be set up to win going forward with your training partnership. Check with a local gym or search online for local trainers who speak to your specific needs.
6. Be kind to yourself.
Exercise and kindness go hand in hand. See where you are currently as a means to grow using self-compassion and patience. Refrain from making excuses and being self-judgmental. Notice your self-talk, and if it leans in the direction of what isn’t possible or what you think you can’t do, know that this only serves your exercise regimen from becoming consistent. Treat yourself with care on your journey! You, like all of us, deserve thoughtful care with body, mind, and spirit. Feed yourself with intentional care meant to foster that best that lies within you!
Stay tuned for next week’s article where we expand on tip #3 – How to Better Your Mental Health by Reducing Stress!