Depression and anxiety are very common in Australia. Every year, one in five people is diagnosed with a mental illness, and many more experience the symptoms without seeking help. If you are struggling, it is important to see a mental health professional for a treatment plan that will work for you. But there is one simple thing we can all do improve our moods, reduce stress, rev up our energy levels, relieve the symptoms of mental illness, and prevent its onset: get active.
Exercise Your Mood
September is Exercise Your Mood Month, a campaign presented by The Black Dog Institute that strives to spread awareness of the mental health benefits exercise can bring.
“Exercise has been clinically proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.Research has shown that spending 30 minutes per day engaging in vigorous movement – it could be walking, swimming, team sport or even raking the garden – improves sleep patterns, increases energy and distracts you from worry and negative thoughts,” ” says Black Dog Institute Director, Professor Helen Christensen.
“It’s simple really – a healthy body will help to support a healthy mind.”
To help get the word out, superstar trainer Michelle Bridges has joined the campaign as an ambassador. “There’s so much research out there that shows how exercise benefits depression and mental health, and I’ve personally seen many of my clients improve dramatically though a more active lifestyle,” Michelle says.
“I’m so proud to partner with the Black Dog Institute and share this important message. Get out, get moving and help reduce the impact of mental illness in the process!”
Exercise and mental health
A large volume of research has found that exercise can help boost serotonin, which plays a key role in the brain in regulating mood, sleep and appetite. It can also increase your levels of endorphins, which have natural mood-lifting properties.
Exercise can help your mental health by:
- Increasing energy levels
- Improving sleep
- Distracting from worries and rumination
- Providing social support and reducing loneliness if exercise is done with other people
- Increasing a sense of control and self-esteem, by allowing people to take an active role in their own wellbeing
Source: Black Dog Institute
Finding the motivation to move
Lack of energy and motivation are two very common symptoms of depression – so it goes without saying that sometimes exercise is the last thing a person experiencing low mood or depression will want to do. The idea of putting on runners and getting outside might even feel impossible.
The good news is, exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous to be helpful for mental health. Even a brisk walk each day can make a real difference, the Black Dog Institute says – so if you feel daunted, start small and find something you feel good about doing.
“Start slowly and build up gradually. For example, if you have not been exercising at all, start with a 10-15 minute walk each morning, and gradually increase this to 30 minutes per day,” the Black Dog Institute suggests.
“Set short-term realistic goals for exercising each week (e.g. 3 x 20 minute walks per week). Plan to exercise at specific times of the day that fit in with your lifestyle and write your plan down…And give yourself a break – if you don’t stick to your exercise plan, simply start again from where you left off.”