Mental Health and Exercise

Last weekend saw the great London Marathon. As I sipped cocktails in Tokyo on the last evening of our honeymoon and casting an eye on all my friends taking part, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the royals supporting charity for the London Marathon was Heads Together charity. 

In July I’ll be swimming 3.8km, cycling 180km followed by a 24 mile run at the Switzerland Ironman. I decided a long while ago to raise money for the mental health charity Mind, which is a charity partner of Heads Together. The positive effects, mentally in addition physically, of exercise is something I’m very passionate about, as well as knocking down the stigmas' around mental health. 

The stigmas around mental health have shifted over the years, with more awareness and support globally. The number of people acknowledging that they, or someone they know, has a mental health issue  increased from 58% in 2009 to 65% in 2014. But there’s still work to be done to raise awareness and support. 

We invest so much time and money towards our physical health: eating healthy, diets, paying for gym memberships, buying classes. I believe that it's equally as important to also invest in our mental well being.

MENTAL HEALTH STATS

  • 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of a mental health. 
  • Mental health affects men and women - in 2013 6,233 suicides were recorded with 78% being male.
  • So what actually constitutes as mental health? Mental health spans a large spectrum: eating problems, post natal depression, sleep problems, anxiety, stress, phobias, ADHD, anger, depression are just a few.

THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON MENTAL HEALTH

  • Studies show that exercise can be used to treat mild to moderate depression. 
  • Exercise releases endorphins (often known as the happy hormone) 
  • Chemicals produced in your brains such a dopamine and serotonin. Neurotransmitters leads to a decrease in depression, an overall feeling off happiness, improves mood and contributes to the pleasurable feelings in the brain (sometimes called ‘runner’s high’). This can often lead to the feeling of addiction to exercise. 
  • Release of tension and stress
  • Mindfulness - forcing you to focus on movement of your body, increase in heart beats, breaths, focussing on technique. This serves as a good detraction from negative thinking
  • Better sleep
  • More energy
  • Higher self esteem. Sense of strength and power. Feeling fit and healthy
  • Better mobility in everyday life 
  • Increasing concentration. 

THE POSITIVE EFFECTS EXERCISE AND SPORT HAS ON ME

Sport has played a part in my life for as long as I can remember. It’s something that is very personal to me and I’ve been taking part in sport and  since I was 8. I’m neither the fastest or the strongest, for me, it’s about becoming a better person, pushing my limits that little bit each year with a new challenge or event. 

I’ve always said that sport and exercise has been my therapy. I’m often a lone wolf when it comes to my training, often on my own. 

Swimming, running or cycling, allows me to get outside, be in nature, breathe in fresh air and feel truly alive. It’s where I get clarity in my thoughts, relieve my stress and tension and when I feel most inspired and creative. 

WHO ARE MIND?

Every year one in four people will suffer form a mental health problem. Mind offer support for millions with helpline, information services and online communities. With a network of local Minds across England and Wales. 

“We believe that everybody experiencing a mental health problem should be empowered to make their own choices about treatment and recovery, be able to access the services they need, should be treated fairly, positively and with respect'

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