Mental Health & Exercise
What is Mental Health?
A common phrase used almost every day, so it is quite surprising that most of us misunderstand what it really means.
According to the World Health Organisation, Mental Health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to their community.”
In summary, it refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
However, a lot of the time ‘mental health’ is often used as a substitute for mental health CONDITIONS including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-natal depression and many others.
“Good” mental health, therefore, is the absence of mental health disorders and “peak” mental health refers to not only avoiding conditions but actively looking after our ongoing wellness and happiness.
Who does it affect?
· 1 in 5 Australians experience a mental illness each year.
· Nearly 1 in 2 (46%) Australians aged 16-85 had experienced a mental health disorder during their lifetime
· A higher percentage of males than females experience mental health disorders in their lifetime.
There are many factors that can contribute to an individual being diagnosed with a mental health condition including but not limited to:
· Genetics/family history
· Trauma, neglect, abuse
· Experiencing discrimination
· Social isolation long-term stress
· Socioeconomic disadvantage
COVID- 19 and Mental Health
The effect of COVID-19 on our mental health was recognised very early on in the pandemic. Not only were we anxious about contracting the virus but the restrictions and lockdowns negatively impacted our mental health.
The sudden loss of employment and social interactions, remoteness of work or schooling, restrictions on physical activity were just some of the factors influencing our mental health.
From March 2020 till the present, research has shown that psychological stress heightened during the pandemic (Aknin et al. 2021) and the use of mental health services showed large increases.
There was an increased use of the EPC (enhanced primary care) and MBS (Medicare benefits schedule) to access psychologists, mental health clinicians, exercise physiologists and other allied health professionals.
To see how each allied-health professional can help, click on the tabs below.
Exercise and Mental Health
You might have heard the phrase ‘movement is medicine’ – that’s because when we exercise, we release what we call ‘happy chemicals’ which help us reduce stress levels.
Other benefits of exercise include:
· Boosting your mood
· Better sleeping patterns
· Improved concentration and cognition
· Increased energy levels
· Increased confidence and self-esteem
· Lower anxiety
Ask an Expert: How can I get Started?
· Don’t rush into it: if you have little experience with exercise and go straight into a 10km, 2-hour strength workout, you will experience burn out and lose motivation. Start off small, set some short-term goals and increase as you become more comfortable
· Do what you enjoy! Are you a beach person? Do you like hikes? Does weight-lifting make you feel powerful? Doing an activity that you enjoy will be a lot easier to stick to!
· Talk to a professional to help you get started: sometimes we require a little help if we are feeling lost and confused. If you are having difficulty getting started, talk to an accredited exercise physiologist to assist you in finding an exercise regime that works for you!