Movement matters for your Mind

Each year, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness.

Photo by Simone Scarano on Unsplash

That number is almost double the global average. Despite this there is still a poor understanding and acceptance of mental illness and it often goes undiagnosed and either untreated or poorly treated.

Living with mental illness is challenging as it impacts on a person’s cognitive, behavioural and social functioning. In turn, living a productive daily life becomes a struggle as engaging in regular work, social and physical activities to the fullest is out of reach. This creates a downward spiral as connection and fulfilment drop, social isolation occurs. As a result, the relative risk of death is estimated to be 2.2 times higher in people with mental health disorders.

Move to get your groove back

There is mounting evidence that suggests exercise and movement is an effective component of treatment for people living with acute and chronic mental illness. Movement can make a big difference in mood and promotes positive mental health, whilst also helping to reduce the symptoms of mental illness, there is a significant need for exercise to be a fundamental part of mental health treatment.

An important note for moving more with mental illness: it is not about what type of exercise is the best, or when to do it. It’s about what works for you, what you can accomplish. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all, even as little as one sessions of activity a week can have great benefits.

Struggling to leave the house?

That’s okay! There’s a range of movement modalities you can do within your home that can help keep you active and start you off on the right foot to positive health and wellbeing.

  1. Your body is THE best piece of exercise equipment. Bodyweight training is a vast and effective form of movement that builds a solid foundation of strength, body awareness, and of course promotes positive mental wellbeing.

  2. Incidental activity around the house accumulates quickly when you are mindful of how you go about your daily routine:

  • Adding an extra half-hour into garden and yard work.

  • Taking breaks from the TV to walk around the house.

  • Sitting low to the ground to encourage extra work when getting up.

In a nutshell…

Speaking with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help determine and prescribe the right movement plan for you and your mental health diagnosis, in conjunction with any other mental health treatments you’re receiving. However, in a nutshell the aim is to incorporate the following into a positive lifestyle habit:

  • Aerobic exercise and weight lifting - shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of mental conditions such as major depression.

  • You don’t have to join a gym – activities such as swimming, walking the dog, jogging whilst listening to music, riding a bike, gardening, bushwalking, yoga and weightlifting can all be beneficial to your mental health. Choose an activity you enjoy.

  • Thirty minutes of brisk walking a few times a week is a good general starting point and can be built on from there. It’s better to do something rather than nothing. Every little bit can help.

  • Get an accountability buddy – this might be a friend, family member or health professional – someone to help keep you on track during the hard days.

  • Make a clear plan – take the requirement of daily decision making out of the picture – the ‘do I or don’t I’ – a clear plan makes going ahead with your plans that much easier. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

  • Get outside – being in nature has extra mood boosting properties. A research team from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry found that outdoor exercise was associated with increased energy and revitalisation, as well as decreased confusion, anger, depression and tension, when compared with exercising indoors.

  • If nothing else, agree to 10 minutes as a minimum each time you’ve scheduled a workout. Even when you don’t feel like it, if you at least do 10 minutes, you’re keeping the habit going.

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

Often getting started is the hardest part. With a little guidance and small steps you too can improve your health and wellbeing.
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