Mental Health and the Benefits of Exercise

What is mental health?

Mental health is the umbrella term which covers our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act in a variety of circumstances in our lives. Mental health can also determine how we handle stress, relate to those around us, and inform our decisions.1

Good mental health allows us realise our potential, manage and cope with stressful circumstances we face throughout life. It helps us to work efficiently and contribute to the communities we live in through work, home, school, social and sporting environments. Having social connections, good personal relationships and being part of a community are vital to maintaining good mental health.2

Who can mental health problems affect?

Mental health does not discriminate! It is important to consider mental health through all stages of life from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood.

Mental Health Services Australia state 2-3% of Australian’s have severe mental illness’, 4-6% have a moderate mental illness and 9-12% are diagnosed with a mild mental illness, all of which include anxiety and depressive disorders.3

Symptoms associated with ill mental health can include:

  • constant worry
  • sleep problems
  • fatigue
  • lack of motivation or purpose
  • feeling helpless
  • severe mood swings
  • inability to perform daily tasks and disrupted eating behaviours.  

All of the above can affect our ability to function day to day and result in poor mental health.4

How can exercise help?

There is a strong relationship between physical activity and mental health. Studies show regular exercise is linked to better mental health and emotional well-being, whilst also reducing the risk of developing a mental disorder.5

 Exercise can6:

  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve mood
  • Increased sleep duration and quality
  • Decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress
  • Provide opportunities to meet new people
  • Reduce presence of risk factors resulting in chronic health conditions

How much exercise should I do?

Exercise and Sports Science Australia recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. A 30 minute walk each day is a great way to achieve this especially if exercise is new to you. Any form of exercise is beneficial!

 

  1. What Is Mental Health? | MentalHealth.gov [Internet]. Mentalhealth.gov. 2018. Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health
  2. org.au. 2018. Available from: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health
  3. Mental Health Services in Australia (MHSA), Prevalence, impact and Burden. Overview of Mental Health Services in Australia (2016). Available from: https://mhsa.aihw.gov.au/background/prevalance/
  4. Morgan A, Parker A, Alvarez-Jimenez M, Jorm A. Exercise and Mental Health: An Exercise and Sports Science Australia Commissioned Review. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online [Internet]. 2013; 16(4):65. Available from: https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/JEPonlineAUGUST2013_Morgan.pdf
  5. org.au. 2018. Available from: https://blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/psychological-toolkit/1-exercisehandout1-prosandconsofexercise-buildingmotivation.pdf?sfvrsn=2
  6. Reach Out and Reconnect Through Exercise | [Internet]. Essa.org.au. 2018. Available from: https://www.essa.org.au/media_release/reach-out-and-reconnect-through-exercise/