Keeping ourselves fit and healthy is something most of us have come to accept as being a big part of life. If you want to enjoy quality of living way into a ripe old age then you're going to have to put down the sour cream pringles and get yourself moving.
A healthy heart and trim waist aren't the only benefits a walk round the park or an hour swaeting it out in the circuits class could bring you though. The government defines wellbeing as ‘a positive physical, social and mental state’.
We're writing this article during Mental Health Awareness Week and it seemed only fitting to recognise the huge benefits that regular exercise – current recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week - could bring to your mental health.
When you exercise your brain releases more of the feel-good brain chemicals, called endorphins. Endorphins have been proven to ease depression and stress as well as helping you to sleep better, feel more energised and, if you choose to exercise as part of a group, feel more connected to people around you. And all of this together will help keep your self-esteem raised – something we could all use every now and again!
Now, just because you exercise doesn’t mean you will be on cloud nine every hour of every day. You will still have days where you want to kick the telly and shout at your phone screen for no apparent reason. What it will help with is the general sense of feeling good about yourself.
Being able to cope with challenges, making the most of opportunities, having a sense of control and freedom over our lives and feeling connected to our community and surroundings are all things that everyone deserves to enjoy – and these are benefits that come with positive mental wellbeing.
The exercise that you do doesn’t have to be as intense as training for a marathon – although good on you if you are! It can be a walk or jog with friends, a game of five-a-side football, tennis, badminton, fitness classes and more. There are many things that you can do to keep active and the secret is finding the one you enjoy.
Recently, Rhona took part in the Live Active Leisure ‘Couch to 5k’ programme, and she has raved about it ever since! Running is a great example of a way to keep fit and healthy and improve your wellbeing – physically and mentally. With programmes like the couch to 5k, you meet new people and receive encouragement every step of the way.
The man behind the programme is Dave Thompson – who is the Technical Services Manager at Head Office for Live Active Leisure, but also the programme instructor. His sessions are based on the NHS product “Couch to 5k” which motivates you into going from NO RUNNING, to completing a 5K run. And all with only three runs a week over 10 weeks.
Dave has adapted this product and replaced one of the weekly runs with a class; he has a private facebook page for the group to encourage, motivate and help with any strains, pains and injuries.
Here's what he told us:
Our Couch to 5k requires a lot of commitment from the participants, it is well structured and builds up to a point where 5k is well with in the ability of the group. I've been amazed for the past 15 years (between JogScotland and Couch to 5K) at the very obvious and immediate positive effects running (or any activity) has on our a mood.
I see people arrive at 6pm with the weight of the world on their shoulders and over the course of an hour watch that change into a smile and a general good humour.
I have been very lucky throughout my life in that I have always been able to excercise but I've had two occasions in the past 10 years where I have been diagnosed with clinical depression. I've been able to manage this with my Doctor I have managed to stay at work throughout and to keep going as a JogScotland leader. Colleagues have been very supportive and I am sure that no one at JogScotland classes knew anything about my condition.
I'm still shocked that I'm one of the one in four who will suffer from mental health issues in their life but I'm quite certain that if I'd not been able to run during these times I would have been in a much worse position and on a downward spiral."
Dave’s story is a reminder that mental health issues can happen to anybody and that exercise can help to combat this. Physical activity is now being used more and more in the treatment of depression and anxiety with ongoing studies consistently showing that the release of those endorphins and all of the benefits that go with this, bring about significant and positive changes to people living with mental illness. And of course, there are none of the side effects of traditional medication – although your legs might not say the same thing!
Needing a bit more info - check out this fantastic video from Mind, the mental health charity.
Take The Next Step:
To find out more about the classes and facilities that Live Active Leisure offer to help you improve your physical and mental wellbeing, visit their website here >>>
To register your interest for the next Live Active Leisure ‘Couch to 5k’ programme, send an email to Dave Thompson – DThompson@liveactive.co.uk
If you or somebody you know is struggling with their mental health please speak to a doctor, practice nurse, counsellor or psychologist and ask about the Live Active Leisure referral scheme – a guided 12 week programme. Call 01738 454660 for more information.