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Moving for Wellbeing: How Physical Activity Boosts Mental Health

Embrace the transformative power of movement for a happier, healthier mind and body.

Mind It Ltd, Wellbeing Session, Health and Wellbeing Sessions, Health and Wellbeing Webinars, Health and Wellbeing Training, Health and Wellbeing Days, Wellbeing Action Plan, Wellbeing in the Workplace, Health and Wellbeing Consultancy, Leeds, York, Sheffield, Wakefield, Bradford, Yorkshire, England
Keep moving to feel good inside and out.

Who else here is a little bit guilty of having a bit of a lopsided approach to our wellbeing? 

If you're wondering what that means, it’s the habit of prioritising our mental wellness over our physical wellness, or vice versa. We may not even realise we’re doing it, but an uneven split between our minds and bodies overlooks the link between the two, and how nourishing or neglecting one likewise nourishes or neglects the other

In a life dominated by screens, when was the last time you conscientiously, mindfully moved your body? 

As we all navigate the complexities of daily stressors and challenges, incorporating regular physical activity into our routines can be a powerful tool for nurturing and maintaining mental health. 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 is coming up 13th-19th May, and this year's theme is Movement. So let’s explore the mutual relationship between movement and mental wellbeing, and dive into the myriad ways in which moving more can lead to a happier, healthier mind.

Understanding the Connection Between Movement and Mental Health

At its core, the connection between movement and mental health lies in the delicate connection between our bodies and minds. 

Engaging in physical activity triggers biochemical reactions within the brain, resulting in the release of hormones and neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine—commonly referred to as the happy chemicals. These chemicals play a crucial role in regulating mood, reducing stress, and promoting feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

This doesn’t just mean intense sports or gym sessions. Have you ever had a stretch that felt relaxing, a walk that boosted your mood, or felt a rush after running? That’s the mind-body connection in play, boosting our health holistically. 

The connection between mental and physical health can also be seen through mindfulness. Regular, conscientious, mindful physical activity both releases these happy chemicals short-term and makes our bodies feel and move better long-term. This alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression, making it a valuable component of well-rounded mental health. That’s where the real benefits of moving for wellbeing come into play.

The Benefits of Movement for Mental Wellbeing

The benefits of incorporating movement into our lives extend far beyond the realm of neurotransmitters and brain chemistry. 

Physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function, enhance self-esteem, and foster a sense of empowerment and resilience. According to mental health charity Mind, physical activity can benefit through things like: 

  • Managing stress

  • Improving sleep

  • Improving your mood

  • Managing symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Memory and brain functioning

  • Heart, muscle and bone health

  • Reducing the risk of developing some long-term health conditions, such as heart disease 

By challenging our bodies and incrementally increasing our physical limits, we not only strengthen our muscles but also cultivate a resilient mindset that can help us navigate life's inevitable ups and downs with greater ease and grace.

Mindfully prioritising movement is arguably more important than ever, given the rise in flexible remote or hybrid working and being ever-connected via screens has led to us being out and about moving day-to-day less than ever before. Movement serves as a potent antidote to the sedentary lifestyles that have become increasingly prevalent in our modern society. 

In a world ruled by screens and desk jobs, actively blocking out regular physical activity allows us to reconnect with our bodies, break free from the monotony of daily routines, and rediscover the joy of movement for movement's sake. 

Some Ideas on How to Get Moving

Sound a bit intimidating to get started? These exercises don’t need to be big commitments - the most important thing is consistency. 

1. Start small - Begin by incorporating short bursts of physical activity into your daily routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a brief walk during your lunch break.

2. Find activities you enjoy - Exercise isn’t a punishment for your body! Experiment with different forms of exercise until you find activities that resonate with you and bring you joy. Whether it's dancing, cycling, or yoga, choose activities that feel fun and fulfilling.

3. Set realistic goals - Ditch the ‘all or nothing’ mindset. Establish achievable fitness goals that align with your interests, abilities, and schedule. Whether it's completing a 5K race, mastering a new yoga pose, or increasing your daily step count, setting tangible goals can help keep you motivated and focused.

4. Prioritise consistency - Consistency is always key when it comes to reaping the mental health benefits of movement. Aim to incorporate physical activity into your daily or weekly routine and make it a non-negotiable part of your self-care regimen. 

5. Listen to your body - Pay attention to your body's signals and adjust your exercise routine accordingly. If you're feeling fatigued or experiencing pain, give yourself permission to rest and recover. Remember, rest is just as important as movement in supporting overall wellbeing.

With those in mind, here’s 20 ideas for ways to get your body moving:

  • Take a walk through your local park  

  • Go for a jog or run 

  • Dance to your favourite music on your lunch break 

  • Try some desk stretches 

  • Practice yoga 

  • Play a fitness game 

  • Join a Pilates class 

  • Ride a bike

  • Swim laps at a pool

  • Find a local group fitness class

  • Play a sport with friends or family

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift

  • Do exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges at home with an exercise video 

  • Play with pets 

  • Head to the gym 

  • Go for a morning jog 

  • Take up an outdoor hobby, such as gardening 

  • Get a standing desk 

  • Do calf raises when waiting in line 

  • Go swimming in your local leisure centre

Mind It Ltd, Wellbeing Session, Health and Wellbeing Sessions, Health and Wellbeing Webinars, Health and Wellbeing Training, Health and Wellbeing Days, Wellbeing Action Plan, Wellbeing in the Workplace, Health and Wellbeing Consultancy, Leeds, York, Sheffield, Wakefield, Bradford, Yorkshire, England
Moving your body can lift your spirits and ease your mind.

Moving Forward With Intention

The greatest wealth is health Virgil, Roman Poet

Movement is not just about physical fitness—it's about nurturing our mental health, cultivating resilience, and embracing the joy of being alive in our bodies. 

We can harness its transformative power to cultivate greater happiness, vitality, and wellbeing by prioritising regular physical activity and incorporating movement into our daily lives. 

So let's lace up our trainers, step outside, and embark on a journey of movement and mindfulness - one step at a time.

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