Exercise Can Aid Mental Health & Wellbeing.


Today at Cathartic, Mark Cassidy writes on the benefits of exercise for Mental Health and wellbeing:


When we think of mental health the first treatment is often medication or CBT. But there’s another treatment we can use. Its exercise and being active. This can go hand in hand with any another treatment and is not only good for our mind but it’ll help your body out too.


Why Don’t People Exercise? And What Can That Do?

In my profession I’ve heard almost every excuse under the sun for not exercising regularly; I don’t enjoy it, I’ll look silly, I hated it at school, it’ll make me feel worse. The list goes on. And yes, from time to time I have used them myself to avoid doing exercise but it never made me feel any better to do so.

Physiologically, by not exercising or being active we leave ourselves at a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Psychologically, lack of exercise or activity is linked to increased levels of depression, lower self-image, unrelieved stress and poorer decision making. I don’t know about you but I don’t like the sound of either of those lists.


Why Does Exercise Work? And What Exactly Will I Notice?

Here’s the bit where I drop some science. When we exercise, we release hormones called endorphins. These endorphins react with receptors in the brain that reduce the perception of pain. The also help the brain to create that a feel-good factor, similar to the feeling morphine can give. So really, they’re a bit like drugs. But from a source that’s good for the rest of the body too.

Now I shall talk about the things that matter. The things you’ll actually notice once you get started exercising. You’re going to feel more energised, find things easier to do, sleep better, have lower stress levels, improved self-esteem, better relationships with those you exercise with and a better self-image.

They might not all happen straight away and it could well be a hard slog get into that routine but over time you’ll start to notice them and it will be worth it.


Getting Started:

Starting to exercise can be daunting. Perhaps it’s something you’ve not done for a long time or something you’ve had bad experiences of in the past but it’s about starting fresh. Here are my three top tips for getting into exercise:


1)  Do something you’ve enjoyed in the past – we’re more likely to do something if we enjoy it. Something I think applies to almost everything we do, including exercise. Going back to a sport you used to play or an activity you enjoy will not only make it more likely that you’ll actually go, but that you’ll stick to it going forwards.


2)  New to it all? Experiment – you might not know what you like and unless you try you never will. You wouldn’t want somebody to judge you before they’ve met you so don’t judge an activity before you’ve tried it. For some people it’ll be pounding the roads and going for a run, for others it hitting the local boxercise class, or clocking up the miles on a bike, or getting out on the sports pitch, I could continue but I’ll stop there. What I’m trying to say is there is something out there in the sport/activity/exercise world for everyone and it’s about finding it. If you try something and you don’t like it, so what? At least you know what you don’t want to do.


3) Be SMART – don’t expect to be the fittest and best at something on your first go. Just getting into a routine of doing exercise regularly can be a challenge so start small. Setting goals is a great way to do this, but this can have difficulties itself so using the principles of SMART goals is key.


S) Know exactly what it is you’re going to do.

M) Make it measurable. Stick a number in it e.g. run for 15 minutes. That way you know if you’ve done it, and if not how close you got to it.

A) Make it a target you can reach. Don’t set a target of running a marathon in world record time if you’ve not been for a run in 2 years. You’re setting yourself up for failure, which doesn’t encourage you to continue. Be realistic.

R) Make the relevant to you. Do something you want to do and don’t be afraid to change that week by week. What you’ll want to do may change depending on experiences, go with it.

T) Put a time limit on it and hold yourself to account. To build on the example from M, run for 15 minutes 2 x per week. This way you’ll keep focus.


Exercise for the body can be of great benefit for the mind.  Cathartic is here to help you clear your mind in total anonymity and make it easier for you to take positive steps towards improving your wellbeing.  If you are interested in exercise to help you but are overwhelmed by your thoughts, then click the "Your Story" button and share whatever you need to. Clear your mind so you can focus upon taking steps, such as exercising, to improve your wellbeing.