Stress, anxiety and depression are a huge problem in society at the moment, unfortunately. We all know people who have struggled with their mental health. Perhaps we've had our own struggles. Mental Health Ireland suggests one in six of us will suffer from a mental health disorder but this figure could be higher considering that so many people do not report it. Luckily society has begun to grapple with the importance of positive mental health with an eye to reducing the stigma around anxiety and depression. Many people wonder what practical things they can do to improve their mental health. Exercise is one proven way to feel better. Here Vickey Nolan, The Wellness Guru, gives your an insight into exercise and your mental health and how you can improve it.
Regular exercise can be a key factor in helping you to look after your mental health. When you exercise endorphins and chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are released in the brain. According to many studies. these chemicals are the reason we experience an increase in mood, higher levels of self-esteem improved sleep, reduced stress, anxiety levels and even a reduction in depression. As you exercise you increase the blood flow to the brain. The increased blood flow stimulates areas of the brain that may not be as active while you are feeling low. Exercise also helps to balance adrenaline levels and this in turn balances your stress hormones.
What’s is recommended to help?
Aerobic exercise is recognised as having the most beneficial positive impact on mental health. It’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This can be broken up into smaller durations of 10 minutes or you could do bigger chunks of 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
￼Every little helps!
Working out with a friend or a group will also help to stimulate the brain, releasing serotonin that feel-good factor. Other options to increase your moderate activity exercise include cycling, swimming, jogging and doing a fitness class.
Talk to someone
The simple act of talking out loud to someone you trust can alleviate those feelings of anxiety, reduce your stress and give you a fresh prospective on your situation. If you're feeling anxious or sad, talk to a friend, make an appointment with a therapist or ring Samaritans on 0330 094 5717. Remember you're not alone!
Eating a balanced healthy diet that contains a variety of fresh veg, protein and complex carbohydrates helps to provide optimum conditions for your brain health. Try to reduce your sugar intake. Much like alcohol, takeaways can have a negative effect on the brain and overall mood. And always lots of water to keep hydrated.
The key take-away
Making small improvements to how active we are everyday can have a massively positive effect on the brain. Unfortunately when we exercise the benefits to our brain health are short-lived so regular exercise is really important. If you or a friend are feeling anxious, stressed or depressed do something active today. The effects of exercise on mood and mental health are immediate.
Vickey Nolan is a Personal Trainer, General Manager, and Fitness Director at West Wood Club, Dun Laoghaire. She has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Health Promotion and Physical Activity and has been working in senior roles in the fitness and wellness industry for over 12 years. Follow Vickey on Instagram and follow West Wood Club on Instagram.