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Exercise and Mental Health

Posted: Tue, 10 Sep 2019 11:05

Exercise and Mental Health

by Ana Adams

For the last 15 years I have battled with depression and over the years, I have had periods of time when I have needed medication to help me deal with it. Yet in all that time, I have never really appreciated the link between exercise and mental health, until recently.

During the last three years, I have been on medication for my depression. However, for the last few months I have been working to come off my medication completely. As this is quite a big step and a long process, I spoke with medical professionals as well as people from MIND to help me with this transition and one of the ways to help keep my mental health on track, was to start to introduce exercise into my daily routine.

Now, despite me working for NSport for a number of years now. I can honestly say I am still not an exercise enthusiast! So with that in mind, I thought the best course of action was to start of small by doing just a 20-30 min walk every day, just getting out and enjoying some fresh air and just having some time to myself. After my walks, I would find I felt much calmer and at ease and I also found that my perspective, enthusiasm and general mood were lifted. I also started to make small changes to my daily habits like parking the car further away to make me walk that bit further and if I was working from home, making sure I was getting up every half hour to move around. As things progressed, I started adding in different activities like doing gardening, mowing the lawn or if its fair weather, biking to and from work (I stress the fair-weather biker bit) and since making these small changes. I have since been able to build up my stamina and fitness and have now progressed to jogging. I am no Paula Radcliffe and at the moment I am fast walking more than jogging. However, it's a start and it all helps, as I am seeing small progress each time which helps with my motivation to keep going.

Over the last few weeks, I have found that I have been far more positive and there has been a significant reduction on the periods of time where I just couldn't face getting out of bed. On the occasions that I don't do any form of activity, I do find that I am far more restless and my mood can start to become low. The big difference in my life now, is that I recognise this and immediately think about getting out and going for a walk or doing anything that gets me up, about and moving as I know this will change my mood. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that exercise is a cure for depression. However, for me, it does have a positive impact and I have also recognised that keeping my physical health in check means that my mental health is more manageable.

Depression will always be a part of my life. However, if I can keep active and keep my physical health as good as it can be and that in turn helps me to reduce my episodes of depression, as well as help me reduce (and hopefully one day eradicate) my need for medication. Then I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, in this one simple change to my life that started small yet is getting bigger week by week.

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