Sitting is the new smoking. It’s been the new fitness and lifestyle adage going around the last few years. There are mountains of evidence-based research papers informing us the danger a sedentary lifestyle poses to our physical health. But one area that we are recently starting to find is equally influenced by exercise-based physical activity is mental health and wellbeing. In essence, looking good, feeling strong and a positive self-image are all benefits of a regular exercise.
Glancing through any men’s health magazine or website focused on mental health (eg. MensLine Australia) and you’ll notice the rise in mental health issues amongst men in general. This could be due to the increased demand on us by society to meet specific standards like getting a house at a certain age or having kids and a burgeoning career before you reach a certain period in life. I agree it’s good to have targets to work towards but sometimes these targets can almost feel like unwritten laws that hound us with every decision we take. The government is obviously trying hard to tackle the rise in mental health issues nationwide, but the onus also lies on us to create the right environment to function at optimal mental and physical capacities.
The Role of Exercise
Regular exercise often leads to an improved body image, makes your heart and bones stronger, lowers your risk for chronic disease right along with your blood pressure, keeps your weight under control and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression. Whilst all this is happening, changes at the cellular and hormonal level help to increase your confidence and self-esteem. Exercising as little as two days a week can go a long way to helping with self-image. We all know the sense of achievement and pride associated with starting a fitness or exercise regimen and sticking to it; It can be quite exhilarating to say the least.
There is no proven formula for how much or how often to exercise to affect self-esteem, but it seems logical to include elements cardio, strength training and flexibility-building disciplines such as yoga.
- Pick an activity you enjoy so it’s easier to stick to it.
- Vary it to reduce the likelihood of boredom.
- Mix it with classes like yoga and pilates as you progress.
- Don’t forget to include friends if possible, to keep things interesting.
- Exercise 150 to 300 minutes a week at a moderately-intense level for an all-over feeling of well-being.
- More isn’t always better. The psychological benefits of physical activity last longer after moderate exercise than after high-intensity exercise.
More Isn’t Always Better
Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to release optimal levels of endorphins that increase feelings of well-being. This also lowers the “stress hormone” know as cortisol. High-intensity exercise does not always decrease stress and anxiety; you are better off focusing on moderate intensity and building up to your target intensity.
Though the psychological benefits of physical activity last longer after moderate exercise than after high-intensity exercise, research into the mood effects of high-intensity exercise is less prevalent. research. That said, being able to reach high intensities during exercises do improve one’s confidence. If you are an experienced exerciser in a non-competitive situation, there is always the possibility that mastering intervals of high-intensity exercise can cause a sense of accomplishment and increase motivation.
An exercise expert like an Exercise Physiologist can help you design a suitable exercise program that you will be more likely to stick to long term. For information about our Exercise Physiologists, head to https://themovementmill.com.au/services/exercise-physiology/
Written by Kojo Arthur (Physiotherapist)