With Australian’s just having ‘R U OK? Day’ in September 2018, which is our national day of action encouraging people to start a meaningful conversation in an attempt to help those who may be struggling with their mental health. Furthering on from this day of action, any day is a chance to start exercising and not only bettering your physical self, but in particular your mental health.
Researchers for decades now have studied and shared their findings in relation to physical exercise and a healthy diet, and linked it to overall physical wellbeing. As research develops, the links between physical activity and mental health grow further and stronger, now with the common belief that with a healthy body, comes a healthy mind. With mental illness’ affecting 4,000,000 Australians, and with eight Australians taking their life every day, the issue of Australia’s mental health status is something that needs to be of a focal point for not only the government, but at a intrapersonal level too. This can all be started by learning the benefits of health living on the brain and mind, and then putting it into practice.
When looking at past research in relation to physical exercise and psychological health it is important to look at the individual, their lifestyle, and finding a health plan that targets not only their fitness and skill level, but something that caters for their personal needs. For instance, say you are an individual who is just beginning to exercise or are elderly, low intensity activities such as walking, swimming, and bike riding for example have important psychological benefits, as well supporting anti-aging, reduced coronary heart disease, higher rates of avoiding functional loss, and overall a higher life expectancy. Due to the cross morbidity of some physical illness with mental health problems, the inclusion of physical exercise might also be a means of harms minimisation from the original physical health problem. One study looked at 3403 participants both male and female (aged between 25-64), who had completed a risk factor survey, along with an exercise habits and perceive health questionnaire. The results of the study suggested that if you exercise at least two to three times a week for a minimum of an hour, you are more likely to experience significantly less depressive symptoms, anger, and stress than those who are exercising less or not at all. Furthermore, the individuals who did exercise acknowledged that they had higher levels of coherence, and a stronger feeling of social integration, along with an overall higher confidence in self and self-perception. This feeling of joining a community is a driving force behind combatting mental health in all areas, due to this feeling of self-worth and purpose, by surrounding yourself with people with a common goal, and helping motivate each other to live longer, healthier and overall more positive lives.
This includes the possibility of alcoholism and substance abuse in such individuals who experience anxiety of depression, and use such substances as a means of dealing with the psychosocial disorder. Further studies have been conducted to see if there are improvements in substance abuse when regular exercise routines are introduced into such individual’s lives. In one particular study, 58 male and females with alcohol abuse problems, participated in a fitness program for three months. Results showed that after the three month program there was significant improvement in abstinence when compared with control groups.
So as a nation what are we doing? There are so many actions that we can do to improve that statistics, and re-shape mental health to a positive outcome. If we target this as a community, ask each other on daily basis ‘are you okay?’, and then focus on both the intrapersonal and interpersonal level of our mental health, by incorporating healthy living into our lives, then positivity and uplifted mindset is just the beginning of a better future.
Written by Jasper Holmes
Planet Fitness Lambton