Most of us know that exercise is good for our physical health, but it has also been shown to be of great benefit to our mental well- being too. A piece of research going back to 1990 suggested that moderate exercise can not only help with anxiety and depression, but it can also lead to greater self esteem as positive goals are achieved. An exercise programme can also help to maintain good mental health over the longer term. The same article also called for more research however, and advocated for moderation, as exercise can itself become a source for diminished mental health if taken to excess. You can see this research here;
That work of course was almost 30 years ago, and the evidence is now more convincing, with organisations like the National Health Service, The Kings Fund and others actively promoting exercise as part of a personal psychological well being plan.
But of course we are not all Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andy Murray, Paula Radcliffe or Dame Kelly Holmes. Many of us do not know where to start or might be intimidated by going to the gym. Many of us have taken little or no exercise since school so the prospect of what to do where and how is daunting, so we just do not start.
Well many will be aware of the quote from Chinese philosophy, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ This comes from the famous book, The Tao Te Ching and is more accurately stated as the journey starting ‘beneath our feet’, as can be seen here;
That being understood, and recognising that we have to ‘walk before we can run’ it seems sensible to suggest that walking is a good place to start; no gyms or fancy lycra required. Just get out and walk. Slowly at first, then build it up progressively. Of course, if you have a health concern it is always wise to consult your GP. You might even get a prescription to help you. If you are lacking motivation, employing the help of a counsellor or coach might help you on your way to greater psychological health as well as physical health.
The NHS has a useful resource here;
If you live in the Stafford area, there are organised walking groups described here;
Walking For Health is a national organisation, so if Stafford is not your locality, then you will be able to find similar activities closer to you on their website. Being part of an organised group, walking at a moderate level to suit all, can be a great way to increase your social circle too, which itself can improve how you feel.
Who knows where that might lead? For instance, when you start to feel better through walking, you might want to start jogging or running. The ’Couch to 5K’ programme has turned many lives around and details can be found here;
So, there we are, exercise, however little can be of great benefit to our overall well -being. Here’s my 5-point plan to help you on your way.
1. Start small, start easy.
2. Walk. Preferably outside in nature.
3. Have a goal and involve others in that. Make it achievable.
4. Exercise with others if possible. You will motivate each other.
5. Make it progressive. Physical fitness is more journey than destination.
Oh, and a final note, if you think you can’t start exercising for whatever reason, watch this short YouTube video. It might just change your mind!