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The Many Benefits of Exercise

We all know how important exercise is to our physical health. But it is also a key factor in supporting our mental wellbeing too. Discover why.

By Christi Malthouse

 

Watch children at a playground as they climb up ladders, throw themselves down slides, swing across monkey-bars and sprint for a turn on the swing, and it won’t take long before you wonder where they get all their energy from.

It’s pretty simple – like money makes money, energy creates energy.

In fact, elevating your heart rate for just 30 minutes a day has more benefits than the number of minutes spent moving in that one session. So if you’re lacking motivation to get active, read on for some inspiration.

There’s the obvious: exercise is good for your physical wellbeing by helping to maintain a healthy weight and reducing the risk of illness. And there’s the less obvious: exercise is great for your mental wellbeing by improving your state of mind.

 

Why is exercise so important to our mental health?

The reason exercise is so good for your mental health is because physical activity directly increases your levels of serotonin (the happy hormone) and endorphins (the feel-good neurotransmitters) and helps to reduce high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone.)

“This is why people report feeling like they are on a “high” after exercising, exhausted too yes, but happier, as the feel-good peptides act on the opiate receptors in their brain to increase feelings of pleasure and reduce pain and stress,” says Readiness co-founder Simon Kearney, who has 20-years’ experience in high performance at elite level sport.

A look at the mental health benefits of exercise by online science forum, Live Science, found these five key points:

  1. Exercise can prevent the onset of depression and significantly and effectively reduce symptoms associated with diagnosed depression.

  2. Exercise regulates your body’s systems and distracts your attention for a physiological and psychological impact on reducing anxiety.

  3. Exercise is a proven behavioural regulator, particularly in children, as they become less aggressive, learn to cooperate better and take more responsibility for their actions.

  4. Regular exercise can promote a sense of structure and purpose, while enhancing feelings of connection and belonging when undertaken in a group or team environment.

  5. Exercise is good for your self-esteem, by creating more positive self-perception and improved self-image.

And it’s not all sweat and tears to reap these benefits either!


How much exercise should we be doing each day?

From swimming or walking to team sports and ninja warrior courses, it’s your choice how you move. What’s most important is the intensity of the exercise and how long you exercise for.

“Try a variety of exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. If your heart rate is elevated (just 15% or higher than your resting heart rate,) then you’ll feel the benefits immediately,” says Kearney. (A comprehensive guide to heart rates and training zones is available as part of the Readiness platform.)

According to Live Science, 150 minutes of exercise split across five sessions a week (to fit your schedule,) provides long-term health and wellbeing benefits.

And don’t forget strength training and stretching which are of equal importance to your physical wellbeing as moving, according to Kearney, who suggests building your fitness routine into your workday to avoid long periods of stagnation, by:

  • Building activity into your to-and-from work commute
  • Taking regular screen and desk breaks
  • Using the stairs
  • Having meetings on the go
  • Eating lunch outside in the fresh air
  • Pre-preparing nutritious meals to avoid unhealthy snacking and lunching


Turning up and getting started is the hardest part of creating a fitness routine, after that it’s a walk in the park. Literally!

For help to get moving, and for more tips and information on fitness, health and wellbeing click here.

Yes boundaries can be scary to implement, but your own wellbeing is your own responsibility.

 

Readiness is here to help. To learn more about how Readiness can support the wellbeing of your employees, click here or contact us.