Hiking mental health

Physical activity for Mental Health

The link between Physical and Mental Health

The importance of mental wellbeing for overall physical health is very clear. In our increasingly busy and sometimes uncertain modern world, it is particularly important for us to give our mental health the care and attention it deserves. As physios, we have often seen the impact anxiety, depression and stress can have on the physical body (did you just feel yourself relax your shoulders and unclench your jaw as you read that??). What is not always as widely discussed, is the importance of physical health on mental wellbeing.

There is lots of great research to support the importance of physical activity for aiding in the prevention and management of mental health conditions. While physical activity alone certainly does not take the place of professional help (eg seeing a psychologist), one study suggested that an hour of physical activity across the week can help prevent depression.

The general recommendation is for 30 minutes of exercise a day to positively influence mental wellbeing.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Release of endorphins and serotonin (feel good hormones)
  • Improved sleep quality (poor sleep is a significant factor in poor mental health)
  • Improved mood and energy
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety
  • Improved memory and focus
  • Improved coping and resilience

Getting started

If you are just getting into exercise, it is important to do so in a way that is going to both support your mental wellbeing and physical health… that is, not contribute to an injury! You do not have to do intense exercise to reap the benefits – see here for our return to walking program. We recommend starting with something familiar (like walking, or a sport you played in your youth) and ideally an activity you enjoy (maybe dancing is great for you!). Getting outside for your exercise is ideal, as this has its own benefits. It can also help to exercise in a location that has positive memories or emotions for you and to partner up with a friend.

If injury is getting in the way of returning to exercise, speak to one of our physios to see how we might be able to help you. If you are experiencing difficulties with your mental wellbeing, speak to your GP or psychologist.

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