Can exercise improve mental health?
Poor mental health has reached epidemic levels. We are all vulnerable to it, however strong we think we are. There is a theory that many of us have become too sedentary, not going home with that feeling that we have achieved something, that you have done the same as you did yesterday, albeit very well, but is not igniting your inner flame.
Life was physically more demanding 100 years ago. No gimongous ploughs stripping a field of wheat in an hour, it was done by hand and by graft. The farmer would go home, hungry and exhausted, but with the pride of what he had achieved. The same for the coal miner, the bargemen, the iron workers. They sit and have a meal with their families, knowing that it was their endeavours that got the food to the table. Deliveroo was not an option.
Mental health problems still existed, of course, but they were not anywhere near to how prevalent they are today. Because we exercised back then. We had to. It was all in a day’s work.
The Mental Health Foundation advises that just a 10-minute brisk walk increases mental alertness, energy and positive moods, improving self-esteem.
Ideally, the foundation goes on to advise – “It is recommended that the average adult should do between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise a week. This can be either moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, hiking or riding a bike, or it can be more vigorous activities, such as running, swimming fast, aerobics or skipping with a rope. Any activity that raises your heart rate, makes you breathe faster, and makes you feel warmer counts towards your exercise”
150 minutes a week. Two and a half hours, exercising. It can sound daunting to many.
Yes, if you’re out of shape it will be incredibly challenging, and there will be some pain involved, but, oddly, you will begin to enjoy that. Very quickly, too. You will see more definition in your arm muscles, your stomach will get trimmer, you’ll begin to feel more confident, have more energy, a more positive mindset.
A major factor as to why some people are deterred coming to a gym is fear. Too unfit, too fat, too thin, too old…. Twenty years ago, yes, perhaps that was the case. But gyms have evolved. A good one will tailor a regimen specifically for what you are looking to achieve, whilst also pushing you towards achieving something you never thought possible.
Unlike many people in the fitness industry, I do not come from a high-level sporting background. In fact, prior to becoming a trainer (and even a little after) I never felt comfortable in the gym, I always felt out of place and intimidated. It is for that reason we work hard at The Cut to make everyone feel welcome to join our community.