How much do you know about how exercise can impact your mental health?

Undoubtedly exercise is linked with improved physical wellbeing, but what about psychological and emotional wellbeing?

According to the Black Dog Institute, 20% of Australians aged 16 – 85 experience a mental illness in any year and almost half of Australians (45%) will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The most common illnesses experienced are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorders.

There is much greater awareness and the growth of mental health support organisations means there are more opportunities for those suffering to get the help they need to manage and take back control of their mental health.

It is important that if you are experiencing low mood and poor mental health that you speak with a professional (GP, local mental health service or psychologist), because sometime lifestyle modification on their own won’t be enough.

You might be surprised to learn that exercise is considered very effective in the management and maintenance of good mental health. Beyond Blue states that exercise is linked and research shows that it can be effective in the treatment of mild – moderate depression.

The reason you exercise might not be directly about the mental health benefits, but how great is it to know that what you are doing is having a positive impact on your overall wellbeing, not just your physical wellbeing.

There are those of you who might have taken to exercise for reasons being discussed and I hope you are seeing the benefits of how exercise is impacting your mental health.

Beyond Blue has provided some examples of how exercise positively impacts your mental health:

  1. Promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, like endorphins and serotonin.
  2. It helps you sleep better so you rest fully at night and feel more energised during the day.
  3. Gives you a sense of accomplishment as your fitness improves and you start achieving your goals.
  4. Exercise is usually a shared activity with others so you get the added benefits of social connection.

The Black Dog Institute add the following examples:

  1. Reduces stress and anxiety
  2. Builds your coping and resilience
  3. Improves memory, focus and thinking skills

So, we can see there are many benefits to engaging in exercise for our mental health, but how much exercise is recommended?

The Australian government and department of health align with Fitness Australia’s minimum exercise guidelines when it comes to determining how much exercise we should be getting to help us keep good mental health.

The Department of Health recommends each week (refer to guideline in the reference list to establish what moderate vs vigorous intensity are):

  • 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or
  • 75 minutes (1 ¼ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity
  • Muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days per week

You might also consider getting involved in mindfulness exercise, yoga or meditation classes as a way of boosting your mental health.

Whatever your motivation for exercising, and in whatever form, we strongly encourage and support you in creating a routine and consider why you are doing it. If there is meaning and purpose, then adherence is more likely for a longer period of time and your physical and mental wellbeing will be thankful for it.

If you or someone you know is experiencing poor mental health, please contact one of the support services below.

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Nurse on Call – 1300 60 60 24

For more information on the above recommendations please see the cited references below:$File/brochure%20PA%20Guidelines_A5_18-64yrs.PDF