Exercise and mental health go hand in hand however, they are not mutually exclusive. You can still suffer from mental health problems as a regular exerciser, and starting to exercise is not an all-out cure for mental health issues.
There is a stubborn myth that exercise must involve some suffering. Many of the exercises Alex Delogu teach are light, easy, and non-strenuous. In fact, sometimes people feel they are not doing much precisely because they are not straining themselves.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are aiming in the opposite direction in trying to reduce strain and effort. However, this does not mean they are not challenging in their own right.
Whatever your exercise of choice, for it to positively benefit your mental health, it must be done in a way that’s right for you. Working in recovery time, your daily life and just time to ‘be’ are also essential for a balanced and improved mental state.
How Exercise Affects Mental Health
If people enjoy or find value in their chosen exercise, I trust that they may implement it and I encourage this. It’s important to find our intrinsic motivation for what we do.
If you are not motivated by certain types of exercise then it may cause you more stress. Thus affecting your mental health negatively.
So often we focus on how exercise improves mental health, we forget it can also do the opposite, especially for those suffering from any kind of body image disorder or mental health
issue related to physical appearance.
The good news is that when done in a free and enjoyable way, the benefits of exercise on mental health are very positive.
The key here is to take the pressure off how you exercise. A walk is just as valid as a full-on gym workout and a run does not outperform a pilates class. How you feel after your chosen form of exercise is what matters to your mental health.
How Often Should You Exercise For Mental Health
Even though you do not have to exercise every day, small regular habits tend to carry greater benefits than long, infrequent ones. Working your preferred exercise into your weekly routine is a great place to start.
Make sure the amount of exercise you schedule feels enjoyable to you rather than daunting. In order to feel the mental health benefits of exercise, there needs to be a lightness about it. It should be a safe space carved out just for you.
Miss one of your workouts? Stop guilt at the door and realise you are human. Positive mental health is rarely found in self-deprecation but rather in the acceptance that sometimes things just don’t go to plan.
The Relationship between Exercise and Mental Health
Mental health and exercise are like any relationship; dependent on how each of the individuals involved is treated.
If your mental health is still suffering even with added exercise it does not mean that you are at fault. As stated before; exercise is not a cure for mental illness but it can be an ally.
There are all sorts of social and developmental blocks that can prevent us from feeling the benefits of exercise and moving freely. Our family of origin may have influenced our perceptions and emotions attached to movement.
Social situations often have unspoken codes of conduct around movement. Unpacking all our inherited movement patterns can be a deep and complex task and not as simple as “just doing it.” For some people, to move is to be seen, and that can be scary.
Want to discuss your relationship with exercise and how it could benefit your mental health? Just get in touch and we’ll have a chat.