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One step at a time: Improve your mental health through exercise



While it is always recommended that those struggling with mental health seek professional guidance, there is an often-overlooked tool that can have a significant effect on your wellbeing: exercise.

Doing even the smallest amounts of exercise can lead to improvements in mental health, offering a fun and alternative approach to help you feel good.

How exercise can improve mental health

When exercising, your brain releases endorphins, which are often referred to as ‘feel-good chemicals’. They are known by this because of their ability to naturally relieve stress and can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Additionally, exercise helps to strengthen blood flow to the brain, leading to better cognitive function and improvements in both memory and focus – empowering you to feel more in control of your mind.

Start small

Though the idea of starting a fitness journey may seem overwhelming, by starting small you can gradually ease into your exercise routine in a way that doesn’t feel intimidating or all consuming. You don’t need to be doing Olympic level activities to benefit from exercise, even just a small amount can really make a difference.

The best way to take your first step is through incorporating simple and easy exercises into your daily routine. Walking is a great example of this as it requires no equipment and you can go at your own pace.

Walking is particularly effective for stress relief as, not only does it give you the physical benefits of exercise, it also provides the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air and surrounding nature, which can help to soothe and calm your state of mind.

Beginner-friendly exercises

In addition to walking, there are many beginner-friendly activities available that can be enjoyed regardless of skill level to help improve your mental health:

  • Yoga : Known for its calming effects, yoga combines gentle movement with deep breathing and mindfulness, promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and improving flexibility.
  • Pilates : Focusing on core strength and stability, Pilates is a gentle and low-impact exercise that can enhance body awareness and relieve tension.
  • Climbing: While a bit more physically demanding than yoga and Pilates, climbing is a great full body workout that helps to boost confidence and relieve stress. You can also do this in a controlled and safe environment with supervision and routes that suit your ability level.

If you already have a preferred exercise in mind, or if you want to try something different, then go for it! Remember, the goal is simply to get moving, so find what works for you.

The social side of exercise

Another valuable aspect of exercise that can boost your mental health is the opportunity for socialising that it often brings.

Socialising is truly important for maintaining good mental health as research suggests that individuals who maintain meaningful social connections experience fewer mental health issues and enjoy a greater sense of happiness compared to those without.

Consider engaging in group exercises such as group fitness classes , team sports, or exercising with friends to help reduce any potential feelings of loneliness or isolation and strengthen your social relationships.

Join a gym

If you want to boost social connections and enjoy a diverse range of different exercises to positively influence your mental health, consider joining a gym.

Gyms offer a wide range of equipment and classes and expert guidance to support your mental and physical wellbeing. Don't be intimidated by the machines or the more experienced gym members, everyone has to start somewhere, and the often supportive environments found at gyms can be a great source of motivation.

By simply starting small and gradually incorporating exercises into your daily routine, you can experience the incredible benefits to mental health that physical activity has to offer.

Kickstart your journey to better mental health by joining the Sports and Wellness Hub in July and get 12 months for the price of 10 across all annual memberships.

Sam Davis Content Contributor, Warwick Sport

Sam is a content writer and sport enthusiast with a keen interest in football, judo, and hockey.


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