To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, MARIANNE STOREY, CEO of Dorset Mind, explains how regular exercise can improve mental health…

Mental health AWARENESS week

People with mental health challenges need regular exercise more now than ever before. Getting active is essential because protecting our mental health is as important as our physical health. But regularly exercising when mentally unhealthy requires a level of conviction – a commitment that many of us struggle with.

An interesting study of 1.2 million individuals in the Lancet Psychiatry journal in August last year investigated the link between physical exercise and mental health. It revealed that over the period of a month, participants who exercised had nearly half (43 per cent) fewer days of poor mental health than individuals that did not exercise.

In addition, Professor Stewart Cotterill, a sport and exercise psychologist at AECC University College in Bournemouth, also highlights where you choose to exercise can be important. “All exercise can have a positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing, but getting out to exercise in and around nature can have a greater positive impact.”

When you exercise, marvellous things happen to your brain chemistry. Endorphins are released that reduce feelings of anxiety and elevate mood. Regular exercise also reduces stress, helps you think much clearer, and provides you with a greater sense of calm and increase self-esteem. The benefits of exercise are clear and enticing.

Being more active for 30 minutes a day is one small change that can have a significant impact on improving physical and mental health.

Here are five tips to get you started:

1. Make a promise to yourself – committing to invest in your health is a good place to start. Think about what you want to achieve and how you want to feel

2. Choose something you enjoy doing – if you look forward to it then you are more likely to stick to it

3. Find out what you can do for free – being more active doesn’t have to break the bank. There are lots of great coastal walks and parks – just dress for the weather and get exploring

4. Encourage a friend to join you – motivating and supporting one another will keep you on track

5. Congratulate yourself on your achievements – Enjoy how being more active makes you feel; positive, energised, healthier and in control.

Get in contact to see how we can help.