When you are struggling with your mental health, exercise and being active is often the furthest thing from your mind. But, there is plenty of evidence which shows that exercise has a hugely powerful effect on not only our physical health, but our mental health too. If you are struggling with your mental health and are anxious or worried about starting exercise, then the best thing to do is to start small, but this is easier said than done.
Busy gyms, traffic-filled roads and unusual fitness classes all put hurdles in the way of exercising for those who are struggling with mental health issues, as these scenarios can be all too overwhelming. If you are looking to improve your mental health through fitness, then here are some ways you can get started.
Set Up A Walking Programme
People who have desk jobs find themselves with a higher chance of mental health struggles which can be down to lack of sunshine, increased levels of stress or decreased levels activity. Setting up a simple walking programme is a great way to boost your endorphins and get more active. Aim to increase the amount you are walking every day and, over the course of a month, gently increase your targets.
Start by aiming for 7,000 steps a day and gradually increase it to the recommended 10,000 steps per day. Many phones and smartwatches have built-in pedometers, so it is easy to monitor and complete over the course of a working day. Get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way, take one flight of stairs a day or walk the long way to the bathroom and you’ll soon find your steps increasing.
Consider Avoiding Cardio
If you are suffering particularly badly with your mental health, then you might want to consider skipping cardio-based activities for the time being. Many people who have anxiety or depression avoid cardio as it raises your heart rate, which can make your feelings and symptoms far worse and fuel your anxiety.
Instead, look into activities which don’t focus on cardio, such as strength training. With weight training, you can monitor your progress by increasing weight or adding repetitions and when you can physically see how you are improving, your mood will likely increase too! You don’t need to exercise every day, instead focus on 45 minutes 3-5 times a week to get the most beneficial results.
Many people with mental health problems are also vitamin D deficient, which is a vitamin we mostly get from sunshine. Vitamin D is known for being a great mood booster, so if you don’t fancy exercising in a packed gym or with other people, head outdoors instead and get into nature. Just being in nature has shown to have positive effects on our mental health, so job, cycle or even just walk through a nice outdoor area, away from pollution of passing cars. If you are deficient in some vitamins, you might want to speak to your doctor about taking additional supplements or vitamins to help, such as high strength fish oil or magnesium tablets.