As we are being fed with large volumes of negative information every day, looking after our mental health has become more important than ever. In achieving so, physical exercise is hugely essential in alleviating stress especially during these times of heightened anxiety.
How does exercise improve mental health?
Apart from trimming a few pounds and reducing the risks of various chronic conditions, regular exercise has been shown to have a profound impact on mental health. Research has found that regular physical activity promotes the release of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, both of which are feel-good chemicals that help with reducing stress and anxiety. Some studies have even suggested that regular exercise are as effective as pharmacological and psychological treatments for mild depression and anxiety. It also improves sleep quality which then increases energy levels during the day, all which play important roles in ensuring mental wellbeing. On top of that, exercise also improves mental sharpness and clarity which is vital in thought processes, learning and memory.
How much exercise is enough?
The Australian guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive exercise on most, if not all days of the week. In saying that, it is understandable that not everyone is capable of undertaking vigorous exercise like HIIT, and everyone should be aware of their physical limitations. Breaking it into 10 to 15-minute sessions over the day are simple steps to achieve that.
How do I exercise when we are all practising social distancing?
Given that we are mostly restricted to the confinements of our own homes, keeping up with physical exercise can be a challenge. There are, however, several ways to overcome that. While unnecessary travel is still frowned upon, exercising is one of the exceptions and is in fact encouraged provided that social distancing measures are adhered to. Simple activities like brisk walking around the neighbourhood, jogging, or even walking your dog are great ways to stay active.
Concerned about being outdoors? A quick web search will give you a plethora of equipment-free workout videos, enabling you to exercise in the comfort of your own homes. Subscription-based fitness apps are also widely available across mobile platforms, all which offer intuitive ways of staying active while being trapped indoors. On top of that, many gyms are also running virtual online classes on activities such as yoga, Pilates and HIIT. If you are unsure on where to begin with, the NSW Office of Sport offers an excellent range of resources for people of different age groups and backgrounds to exercise safely during this challenging period
Struggling to find the motivation to exercise?
We understand that incorporating new activities into our daily routine can be difficult, especially having to adapt to all the changes during these unprecedented times. Start off by setting small, realistic goals and monitor your progress periodically. Scheduling regular workout times are also greatly helpful in building exercise into a daily habit. Mixing up activities from time to time and introducing variety allows you to also enjoy your workout sessions more. You can also turn exercise sessions into a bonding activity with family and friends either by working out together at home or virtually.
With all these tips, the current situation should not be an excuse for you to slack on exercise especially when it has tremendous positive impacts on your mental health. So, start now – find an activity that you enjoy and get the most out of it, both physically and mentally.