exercise for mental health

How to Exercise Right for Your Mental Health

We often think about being “healthy” in terms of our bodies, and too often forget about our minds. So, what exactly is “mental health” and how can you look after yours? Let’s take a look at why should exercise for mental health!

What exactly is “Mental Health”?

It’s a term that is thrown around a lot, but it’s also often misunderstood. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Research shows that high levels of mental health are associated with:

  • increased learning
  • creativity and productivity
  • more pro-social behaviour
  • positive social relationships
  • improved physical health
  • higher life expectancy


What happens when your Mental Health isn’t, well, “healthy”?

Mental illness is real, and it’s more common than you might think. One in five Aussies experience mental illness every year, and almost half of us (45%) will develop a mental illness during our lifetime.

A recent report by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), highlighted the fact that mental health remains the most common reason patients visit their GP. GPs also identified this as the health issue causing them most concern for the future.

Sadly, the prevalence of mental illness continues to increase. The number of deaths by suicide in young people is the highest it’s been in 10 years, and 3.2 million Aussie’s are currently experiencing depression or anxiety.

How can exercise help?

Exercise might be the last thing you feel like doing, especially if you’re feeling down, but here’s why you should persist:

  • Just one hour per week can help protect against depression.
  • If you exercise regularly, it can reduce your stress and symptoms anxiety.
  • Exercise can help with recovery from mental health issues, like depression.
  • Regular exercise can help you sleep better. and good sleep helps you regulate you moods.
  • Exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem.
  • Exercise can distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
  • It offers an opportunity to socialise and get social support if you exercise with others.
  • The levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins, change when you exercise.
  • Exercise increases your energy levels.


Need help?

It’s OK not to be OK. And it’s OK to ask for help. Talking to your GP or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is a great place to start. AEPs are allied health professionals who are  specifically trained to deal with chronic conditions and the complexities of mental illness. To find an AEP near you, click here.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call the Lifeline helpline at any time on 13 11 14.