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Mental Health and Exercise - what do you need to know ?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

We all know the physical benefits of having a good exercise regime but do we know that it can also improve our overall wellbeing?

Exercise can aid your overall physique, trim your waistline, add years to your life and add some mass to your muscles.

But did you know that exercise also has a huge impact on our mental health and is a profound mood booster.

People who exercise sleep better at night, have more energy during the day, can concentrate better and feel more relaxed and positive in their lives.

Exercise has even been recommended to people who suffer with their mental health by doctors.

You can reap the rewards and benefits of exercise with 30 minutes exercise 5 times a week.

It does not need to be the case where you sweat buckets, run marathons or spend hours in the gym.

Exercise and Depression or Anxiety:

  • Exercise is an excellent depression and anxiety fighter for many reasons.

  • It releases powerful chemicals in your brain called endorphins. These endorphins are super mood boosters and make your feel energised and totally revived.

  • It is also advised to maintain a healthy exercise schedule to ensure you don’t relapse.

  • Exercise, in any form, may also be a welcome distraction to you. When you exercise your mind is focused on the task at hand and is a welcome escape for many who suffer with depression or anxiety.

  • Find an exercise that you enjoy. This is vital. It may be in the form of a team sport, weight lifting, exercise classes in groups, walking, dancing, swimming – the list is infinite! If you find an exercise that you enjoy and look forward to, it is more likely that you will stick to it.

Exercise and Stress:

Stress is a very powerful force. It can affect our body and mind in untold and often debilitating ways.

It can manifest itself physically in the form of headaches, muscle crams, stomach aches, and can cause irritability and a general felling of being unwell.

These complaints can further compound stress, creating a vicious cycle. However, exercise can help to relieve these problems.

After you exercise, your brain releases hormones which will in turn reduce the tension felt in your body, relax the muscle cramps, alleviate headaches and relieve tension in the body overall.

Remember that body and mind are so closely linked that when your body feels good so too will your mind.

Other benefits of exercise:

  • Reduce risk of heart disease

  • Helps to control weight

  • Sharpens memory

  • Sharpens judgement, learning and thinking skills

  • Strengthen bones and muscles

  • Improve overall mental health and well being

  • Improves sexual health

  • Improves sleep

  • Reduce risk of some cancers

  • Stronger resilience

  • Boost self esteem

How can I incorporate more exercise into my daily life?

  • Make every day activities more active – Walk to work/shop when possible. Park a distance away from your destination in order to get more active steps in. Take the stairs rather than the lift.

  • Get comfy – Invest in some good exercise clothing where possible. That may be a new exercise legging, good running or walking shoes, sports bras etc. Many shops offer a wide range of sports clothing to fit all budgets!

  • Routine – Schedule your exercise for a time in the day when you feel most motivated and energised. This may be the morning for some, others it may be afternoon or evening. Find what suits you best.

  • Start small – If you have fallen off the exercise bandwagon in recent times, starting small is a clever way to begin. That may be in the form of yoga for beginners, small walks in the countryside etc. It is better to have achievable goals and build from there.

  • Make it a social activity – Finding one person or a group of people to exercise with is a great idea. It passes the time, you get to catch up with your friends and more importantly you can motivate others or in turn by motivated by them.

  • Reward yourself – This helps with your motivation. When you exercise reward yourself with something nice, that may be a bubble bath, a healthy meal or a small treat.

Remember find an exercise that you enjoy and reap the rewards that it will have on both your body and mind. Fill your mind with things you love. Find a list of sports clubs and activities in your area here.


If you need further support remember to let us help you here at Talk To Tom/HeadSpace. We can be your guide - contact us on (0818) 303061or via Whats App. To launch a chat now click here.  You can find out more about our counselling service here.


Other services you where you can reach someone to talk to are:

Samaritans offers a 24 hour listening service over text message, text 'Hello' to 087 260 9090 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply) or call 116 123 to talk to someone over the phone.

Childline text and instant messaging services are available from 10am - 4am every day to young people under 18, text 'Talk' to 50101 to talk to a trained counsellor by text message or call 1800 66 66 66.


Visit Your GP:

We always recommend that you visit your GP if you are not feeling like yourself in any way.  Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed.  Your doctor is a professional health care provider and will be familiar with how you are feeling.  Your mental health is just that - your health.  You would visit your GP if you had been feeling physically unwell right ?  Your emotional health is just as important as your physical well-being - in fact the two go hand in hand.  If you don’t have a current GP you can find a list of services in your area here.  You can also contact the CareDoc service on 1850 334 999


Contact the Emergency Services:

If you are an immediate danger to yourself and are going through a suicidal crisis please contact the emergency services by dialling 999 or visit your nearest Emergency Department.

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