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Mental Health and Exercise

Now that summer has arisen, and restrictions are lifting it is a better time than ever to get outside and be active. Whether it's going for a run, playing football in the park, or simply walking to the shops instead of driving, it's important to get out and be active. Not only is exercise crucial to your physical health but it also greatly impacts on your mental health. This is because when you exercise, feel-good hormones and chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine get released, thus lifting your mood.

Studies have shown that simple exercise such as aerobics for 30 minutes 3-5 times a week can greatly improve your overall mood and help with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression as well as dementia and cognitive decline in older people. Exercise has also been shown to help you to be more alert and provides calming effects afterwards.

If you’re wondering where a good starting point is on getting some exercise you should think about planning ahead by making time for exercise, whether or not you’d want to join a gym or get involved in group activities like gym classes and aerobics. Even starting off with small changes in your daily life can lead to better physical and mental health such as walking up a flight of stairs, walking to work instead of driving, or going for a wander during your lunch break.

It’s important to be practical about starting by not throwing yourself into the deep end too quickly, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself and commit too much too soon, starting to exercise should be a fun activity and not a chore. It is also important to decide which activity is best for you, skateboarding and action sports activities are great ways to exercise but a bit too extreme for older people.

We know that it can be hard to motivate yourself to get active, especially when you experience hard hitting emotions such as anxiety and depression, but it is important to get out and be active so you can combat these emotions. Exercise helps you take your mind off of what is bothering you and will facilitate the release of these feel-good hormones helping to lift your mood.

If you struggle to get motivated to exercise here are some handy tips:

  • Set goals – Start by setting a goal of how many miles you can walk/run in a set amount of time or how many press ups you can do. Setting realistic goals that interest you is important and allows you to build up motivation by wanting to succeed. You can also break down your goal, if you want to run 5km or do 100 press ups, break down these goals into 1km steps or 15 press ups per set.
  • Plot your progress – To help you stay motivated its important your plot your progress so you can see how far you’ve come and how well you’re doing. Keeping an exercise journal is a great way to plot your progress.
  • Reward yourself – Every time you break a task or goal it is important to reward yourself. Giving yourself positive reinforcement is a great way to ensure you stay on track and give yourself a well-deserved treat for reaching your goals.
  • You don’t have to exercise alone – Get friends or family involved so you can help motivate each other into exercising and reaching your goals. Go and play football with friends or take up an aerobics/yoga class with a friend. 

Here are some Suffolk based organisations providing further advice, ideas on what to do or find a local activity to try.

https://www.activesuffolk.org/

https://www.suffolkmind.org.uk/services/greencare/

https://onelifesuffolk.co.uk/

https://www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/advice-services/children/exercise

https://infolink.suffolk.gov.uk/kb5/suffolk/infolink/results.page?ipsvmore=Sports+clubs&qt=health+club&sorttype=distance