Exercise your body and mind

7th October 2020

To some, the word ‘exercise’ is enough to make you sweat, and not necessarily in a good way. You either love it or you hate it. I am a firm believer that exercise is essential not only for your physical health, but your mental health too… so why do we find it so hard to fit into our daily schedule?

Modern day living

We all lead busy lives and physical activity tends to take a back seat. Many times we find ourselves facing the usual barriers:

  • There isn’t enough time in the day
  • Exercise is too expensive
  • I’m no good at it and will embarrass myself
  • It’s just not fun

You don’t need to subscribe to a gym, buy the latest trainers or take hours out of your day. You don’t have to go out and train for an hour a day flat out. We could all find that gap in our day to take a 20 minute walk in the fresh air, have a quick dip in the sea or the local pool or dance around the kitchen with the children. Could you run whilst the children are at extra-curricular activities? Go for a ride instead of watching TV at night? Get up 30 minutes earlier and swim before work? Before long this active period of your day will become part of your routine.

Most importantly, find an activity that you enjoy so it is something you want to do, rather than a chore.

Impact on mental health

“You have to exercise, or at some point you’ll just break down,” said Barack Obama.

It is now being recognised that frequent exercising and positive mental health go hand-in-hand. Symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression can be partly relieved by regular physical activity. Granted, for most this isn’t a solution or cure to mental health but it can be an extremely helpful coping mechanism.

Taking that first step into the fresh air can help you release negative thoughts, allowing them to become more manageable. You are in charge of the situation, taking back that control that you may feel you have lost.

Shift your focus from re-hashing situations in your head to the scenery around you, the air going into and out of your lungs, the feel of your feet hitting the pavement or the tempo of the pedals going round. We all know that endorphins give you a mood boost. A 10 minute swim will give you a quick boost, continue this into the next day and the next, building your time up each time and this boost will become longer.

Impact on productivity in the workplace

“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear,” said Buddha.

Exercising increases the blood flow to your brain which in turn, makes you more alert and focused. Surely this can only be good when you are at work? It is proven that your mental capacity is improved, you concentrate more leading to creative ideas and smarter decisions. Have you ever been for a walk during your lunch hour to clear your mind and find inspiration for your next idea or project?

“Critically, workers performed significantly better on exercise days and across all three areas we measured, known as mental-interpersonal, output and time demands,” said Jo Coulson, Research Associate, Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences Department, Bristol University.

I can’t sign off without mentioning sleep. Yes, that big ‘you must get 8 hours a night’ sleep. When you are a natural worrier, a parent, a procrastinator, sleep becomes a nightly struggle. Pacing the room at 2 in the morning, turning the TV on (or dare I say, the phone that you undoubtedly leave plugged in beside the bed). Suddenly it’s 6am and you are crawling into your clothes and making your way to an unproductive day at the office. Alternatively, pushing yourself during an exercise session during the day will increase your body’s need to recuperate and recharge, encouraging a better night’s sleep and combatting daily fatigue as a result.

To conclude, in this COVID world, the value of exercise cannot be underestimated, so get out there, have fun and reap the benefits.