We asked Natasha Howe of Motivate PT to give us the lowdown on the underrated benefits of exercise for mental health.
This month we’ve been looking at External Factors and how they impact our mental health in both positive and not-so-positive ways. One of these external factors is exercise. Research has shown time and again that even gentle movement can bring huge benefits to our mental wellbeing both in the short and long term, so we asked marketing executive and personal trainer Natasha Howe of Motivate PT to give us the lowdown on the underrated benefits of exercise for mental health.
And if all of this leaves you feeling motivated to have a go, join us for a Sunday Soul Session over on our Positive Planner Instagram account here for a pregnancy-friendly, low impact workout with Jesse from Motivate PT.
There’s no doubt that exercise has clear physical benefits. But at Motivate, we believe too much emphasis is put on this. We feel it’s more important to take a holistic view of fitness - and this includes the mental benefits of exercise, especially right now when we’re all at home keeping warm and probably still feeling a little isolated. Connecting with a friend or trainer over Zoom and getting a bit sweaty could be just the solution to your low mood!
Here are just some of the many benefits of exercise, and none of them have anything to do with how you look!
It’s accessible for EVERYONE
Whether you’re a complete beginner or a gym regular, fitness can work for you. You could make things harder by adding equipment, increasing the weight or adding in an extra rep each time. Or, if you’re used to intense HIIT workouts and want to take it down a notch, you can choose a slower yoga flow. It really is customisable for whatever your body feels like it needs at the time. And if you’re feeling stagnant, try something new!
It helps you create new healthy habits
The process of creating and solidifying a new habit is so beneficial for our brains. It’s no surprise if your fitness motivation is waning at the moment; we can’t get to our favourite studio and these wintry mornings have been SO cold and dark! BUT… try to make daily movement a non-negotiable and start scheduling your workouts into your calendar as if they’re a Zoom meeting (if you really need that accountability, find a friend to workout with you so it’s harder to cancel).
It forces you to be mindful
Mindfulness looks different for everyone and could consist of a daily meditation using Headspace, journaling with one of The Positive Family of books, a nightly stretch routine, or running a bath. But exercise is also an incredibly mindful activity. It’s a way to tune in with your body and mind, giving yourself time to focus on the moment. It will make you a better parent, partner and friend, so don't neglect it!
You celebrate what you CAN do
Now we’ve got more time to sit with our thoughts, it can be tempting to focus on the negatives. Remember, it's about the big picture here. Small daily actions, like exercise, will lead to long-term progress, but don't push yourself to change everything at once or punish yourself when you struggle. We are all human and this has been a weird year, so give yourself some leeway. Getting daily movement in gives you a sense of accomplishment which will flip this negative mindset around.
Connecting with others
This has become even more important, and unfortunately more challenging, during the pandemic. Human connection is beneficial for our own wellbeing - we are social beings and need to be communicating with others in order to thrive and avoid feeling too isolated. While this is tricky at the moment, set a target to talk to at least one person per day. Organising a workout with a friend over Zoom will benefit you both! Just like it will boost your mood, you don’t know how much happier you might make someone by getting in touch and reaching out.
Start your day off the right way
Your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, so if you start it in a positive and proactive way, you're much more likely to have a productive day. Getting your daily exercise done in the morning, whether that's a workout in your local park or a Zoom session with your personal trainer, will set yourself up for the day, making you feel accomplished, as you've already taken one step towards bettering yourself.
Reframing your view of exercise to one that focuses on the benefits it will bring you rather than how it will change how you look could give you a whole new motivation that comes from a much healthier, holistic place.