Linking Physical and Mental Health

It’s likely that if an individual is experiencing poor mental health conditions, that they will also experience elements of poor physical health and vice versa. While this may not always be the case, generally, physical and mental health are connected and influence one another.

Health has several dimensions- emotional, intellectual, physical, social and mental- each contributing to the welfare of a person.

Mental health in Australia

Each year, approximately 1 in every 5 Australians will experience a mental illness (Mindframe-media.info, 2018). 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment and women are more likely than men to use services for mental health problems. (AIHW, 2014).

Exercise for mental health

Research shows that high levels of mental health are associated with improved physical health and life expectancy. Small lifestyle changes could bring big health improvements. Regular physical activity is a good way to help prevent or manage mild anxiety and depression. Keeping active can help you stay physically fit and mentally healthy (Beyondblue.org.au).

Exercise Right’s campaign How to Train Your Mental Health Monsters highlights that sometimes it’s not just as easy as wanting to exercise. The idea is to learn more about the common barriers to exercise with each mental health monster, to break down barriers in the future.

How to train your mental health monsters

Depression

While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time (weeks, months or even years) and sometimes without any apparent reason. Depression is more than just a low mood – it’s a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health (Beyondblue.org.au).

TIPS TO TRAIN DEPRESSION MONSTER (Exercise Right)

REGULAR LOW-MODERATE INTENSITY AEROBIC EXERCISE

Try and aim for 30 mins of movement at least 3 times a week. It’s important not to go too hard, too fast though. Start small and build from there.

FIND AN ACTIVITY THAT WORKS FOR YOU

Whether it is walking with a friend, finding a group exercise class or downloading an app like PokemonGo, what is most important is finding something you enjoy doing. Creating an exercise habit is difficult but finding one you enjoy can make it easier to come back to – and more likely you’ll stick to your program.

SET GOALS

To help with motivation and encourage continuity it’s important to set goals and plan strategies to common barriers you may face. Start with small achievable goals and build gradually.

KEEP YOUR BODY HEALTHY

Depression is linked to higher rates of physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease, so physical activity is more important than ever.

CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The depression monster is a complicated beast but with help from a team of professionals (your GP, mental health professional and accredited exercise physiologist), it can be tamed.

Download the poster on tips to train depression

physical health and mental health

Anxiety

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed. Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t go away – when they’re ongoing and happen without any particular reason or cause (Beyondblue.org.au).

TIPS TO TRAIN ANXIETY MONSTER (Exercise Right)

REGULAR LOW-MODERATE INTENSITY AEROBIC EXERCISE

Try and aim for 30 mins of movement at least 3 times a week. It’s important not to go too hard, too fast though. Start small and build from there.

BREATHING EXERCISES

Breathing and mind-body exercises like mindfulness have been proven to help train anxiety. Check out some of the great mindfulness and meditation apps available to help you out.

TRY ACTIVITIES THAT INCLUDE RELAXATION TRAINING

Activities such as Yoga or Tai Chi can be great to relieve nervous tension and anxiety.

CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The anxiety monster can feel crippling at times but with help from a team of professionals (your GP, mental health professional and accredited exercise physiologist, it can be tamed.

Download the poster on tips to train anxiety

exercise and mental health

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a particular set of reactions that can develop in people who have been through a traumatic event which threatened their life or safety, or that of others around them (Beyondblue.org.au).

TIPS TO TRAIN PTSD MONSTER (Exercise Right)

REGULAR LOW-MODERATE INTENSITY AEROBIC EXERCISE

Try and aim for 30 mins of movement at least 3 times a week. It’s important not to go too hard, too fast though. Start small and build from there.

FIND ACTIVITIES THAT ARE FUN AND ENJOYABLE, AND WORK FOR YOU

Anything from walking with a friend, to a group class or even something as simple as gardening at home. Creating an exercise habit is difficult but finding one you enjoy can make it easier to come back to – and more likely you’ll stick to your program.

WALKING OUTDOORS

Studies have shown outdoor exercise to be associated with increased energy and revitalization, as well as decreased confusion, anger, depression and tension, when compared with exercising indoors.

JOIN A SPORTS TEAM

Mental health is shown to improve with social interaction and joining your local Oztag or Netball team will allow you to enjoy exercise whilst being in a community environment.

CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The PTSD monster can be a large load to carry at times but with help from a team of professionals (your GP, mental health professional and accredited exercise physiologist, it can be tamed.

Download the poster on tips to train PTSD

 

While it may be harder than just wanting to exercise, once you try the above breathing exercises, relaxation training, and outdoor activities, it will become much easier. Keeping active has a range of benefits for your mental health, it’s worth the effort.

Research shows that keeping active can:

  • help lift mood through improved fitness and the release of natural chemicals in the brain
  • help improve sleeping patterns
  • increase energy levels
  • help block negative thoughts and/or distract people from daily worries
  • help people feel less alone if they exercise with others.

Physical activity increases your wellbeing. The current recommendation is at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. However, people with anxiety or depression may find it difficult to get started or get motivated or continue to exercise on a long-term basis (Beyondblue.org.au, 2018).

 

Common barriers to exercise and how to overcome them

Information from Exercise Right

Lack of motivation

Plan ahead. Make physical activity a regular part of your daily or weekly schedule and write it on your calendar.

Set SMART goals. Setting SMART goals (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and timed) gives you the freedom to choose a goal that is both relative to your current situation and also achievable.

Start small. They key is to be honest with yourself and start small. It’s a long race so by starting small, you avoid gassing at the start.

Use technology. Apps and virtual reality games such as PokemonGo can help give you the motivation to get outside and move.

Rally support. Invite a friend to exercise with you on a regular basis and write it on both your calendars.

 

Lack of Support

Ask for help. Explain your interest in physical activity to friends and family. Ask them to support your efforts.

Exercise with friends. Invite friends and family members to exercise with you. Plan social activities involving exercise.

Consult a professional. Seek support from a team of professionals (your GP, mental health professional and accredited exercise physiologist) who can customise a plan for you to help you overcome barriers and achieve your goals.

 

Fear of Injury

Warm up and cool down. Learn how to warm up and cool down to prevent injury.

Exercise Right for your uniqueness. Learn how to exercise right for your uniqueness, considering your age, fitness level, skill level, and health status.

Minimise your risk. Choose activities involving minimum risk.

Consult a professional. Exercise with the help of an accredited exercise professional who can show you how to exercise safely and at a level suitable to your unique needs.

barriers to exercise

Lack of Energy

Plan exercise into your schedule. Schedule physical activity for times in the day or week when you feel energetic.

Start small and build gradually. Even something as simple as a brisk walk can be beneficial. It’s a long race so by starting small, you avoid gassing at the start.

Give it a go. Convince yourself that if you give it a chance, physical activity will increase your energy level; then, try it.

 

Lack of Resources

Take the simpler option. Select activities that require minimal facilities or equipment, such as walking, jogging, hiking, skipping, or calisthenics.

Find ways to exercise on a budget. Identify inexpensive, convenient resources available in your community (community education programs, park and recreation programs, worksite programs, etc.).

 

Family Obligations

Exercise with the kids. Go for a walk together, play tag or other running games, get an aerobic dance or exercise tape for kids and exercise together. Spend quality time together and still get your fix of physical activity.

Exercise at home. Use a skipping rope, do calisthenics, ride a stationary bicycle, or use other home gym equipment while the kids are busy playing or sleeping.

Schedule in exercise. Schedule in a time to exercise when the kids are not around (e.g., during school hours or their nap time).

 

Training with Transcend

For more information on how to train your mental health with physical activity, talk to the team at Transcend Health, our accredited exercise physiologists can prescribe the right exercise to help you. Give us a call on 02 4961 3399 or email hello@transcendhealth.com.au.

 

**If your mental health monsters are getting too hard to handle, we recommend consulting your local GP or mental health organisations like Lifeline (13 11 14), beyondblue (1300 224 636), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or Headspace (1800 650 890).

 

 

Resources:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). Australia’s Health 2014. AIHW: Canberra.

Beyondblue.org.au. (2018). beyondblue. [online] Available at: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/staying-well/keeping-active [Accessed 20 Aug. 2018].

Exercise Right. (2018). How to Train Your Mental Health Monsters – Exercise Right. [online] Available at: http://exerciseright.com.au/mental-health-monsters/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].

Mindframe-media.info. (2018). Mindframe. [online] Available at: http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-mental-health-and-suicide-prevention/talking-to-media-about-mental-illness/facts-and-stats [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].

 

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