“It is exercise alone that supports the spirit, and keeps the mind in vigour.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
Exercise is good for you all round – not just for body shape and fitness, but for keeping your mind and spirit alert, alive and centred. This message comes from centuries ago, way back to the times of Roman philosopher Cicero, and is still hugely relevant today.
Physical activity releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) in the brain, which can help you feel so much better about yourself. Taking up regular exercise may sound like a huge effort if you haven’t done it for a while, but there is so much evidence out there to show how some kind of movement – whether walking, running, dancing, swimming or gym workouts – can have a beneficial impact on your entire wellbeing.
But don’t just take our word for it. We’re talking therapists, not personal trainers. We aim to support you to look after the whole of you. That’s why we’ve gathered together some study findings to show how exercise really can invigorate you, lower your stress levels, boost your mental health, raise your self-esteem, and enhance your emotional wellbeing.
Exercise and Anxiety
Introducing ‘time out’ or distraction activities has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Working out and feeling focused on your body can take you away from the worrying chatter in your head. Exercise can take you, for a short while, away from the things that stress you in your daily activities. Exercise can be particularly effective if you experience ‘state’ anxiety, which is when you might be experiencing somatic symptoms such as increased heart rate, breathlessness, sweatiness and panic. Exercise can help ground you and centre you – and offer you some respite from those heightened fight-or-flight symptoms. The outward, activity-based sweat you experience from working out can help counteract the internal-focused sweat you can experience from fear-based anxiety symptoms.
Exercise and Depression
Exercising regularly can help to reduce the risk of depression symptoms by a third – and you reduce your odds of getting depression by 22% if you carry out the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Exercise and Self-Esteem
Taking part in a regular exercise class can reduce your stress levels more than working out on your own. Taking part in a structured weekly group exercise for 12 weeks meant a 26.2% reduction in perceived stress levels, according to participant experiences. Our view is that doing weekly classes with peers can encourage social interactions, can help you feel more connected, and can build a way of encouraging each other to continue to work on your mind, body and spirit goals.
Exercise and Dementia
Dancing is a super form of exercise to save off the effects of dementia. Dancing can help to beat other forms of fitness activities for its impact on slowing down the process of brain ageing. Varying the kind of dancing you do – especially if learning new, complicated routines – can enhance that impact. The hippocampus part of the brain, which plays a key role in memory, learning and balance, and can be affected by dementia. Repeating exercises every week, and learning a new routine, helps counteract age-related decline.
Exercise and Happiness
A study into swimming and mental health (by Swim England) concludes that swimming even once every couple of weeks could improve mental health. Of 3.3 million adults experiencing mental health problems, 43% say swimming makes them feel happier. A quarter (26%) feel more motivated to complete everyday tasks, and 15% feel life is more manageable. Simply being in water – feeling supported and less stressed – can also feel more restorative.
Speak to your GP first, however, for support on which physical activity is most beneficial for you.
Our view is that if you find the motivation to put on your workout gear and trainers, and commit to looking after your physical body, then your emotional self may be able to benefit in the short, medium and long term. Exercise can form a huge part of self-care, and can help you to build nurture and resilience to deal with whatever life throws at you.
If you’d like to supplement your physical activity with some talking therapy to support your mental health, then get in touch with us. We can match you with a therapist right for you. Call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected] to book an appointment. We have sessions available seven days a week at our Clapham and Tooting centres. Fees start from £20.