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  • Writer's pictureClaire Harrison

Exercising for mental health

Christmas isn't a great time for everyone - particularly in the current times. Many of us have lost people close to us, or are unable to spend time with them this Christmas because of Covid. It's easy to feel isolated and anxious and those feelings all too often can spiral into depression. The problem is, these feelings can leave you feeling low in energy and motivation, which can put you off being more active.

Many studies have shown that doing physical activity can improve your mental health. For example, it can help with:

  • helping you sleep better – by making you feel more tired at the end of the day

  • making you feel happier – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy

  • managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times.

Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression. These improvements in mood are caused by an exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain, by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and on the physiologic reaction to stress. "Although any type of exercise is useful as long as it suits you and you do enough of it," says Dr Alan Cohen, a GP with a special interest in mental health.

Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it."

To stay healthy, it's recommended that adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week, but any exercise is better than none. Even a brisk 10-minute walk can clear your mind and help you relax.

If you haven't exercised for a long time or are concerned about the effects of exercise on your body or health, ask a GP about exercise on prescription. Lots of GP surgeries across the country prescribe exercise as a treatment for a range of conditions, including depression.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people with mild to moderate depression take part in about 3 sessions a week, lasting about 45 minutes to 1 hour, over 10 to 14 weeks. Your GP can help you decide what type of activity will suit you. Depending on your circumstances and what's available locally.

Some medications can cause side effects that affect the type and amount of physical activity that is safe for you to do. So, always check with your GP before you start a new routine.

The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® is a unique, holistic approach to exercise and movement. Some of the benefits of a regular Gyrotonic practice include a healthier, more supple spine, increased range of motion, greater joint stability, improved agility and athletic performance and a deep internal strength.

If you are looking for a gentle, regular form of exercise, please get in touch. We can offer individual one-to-one sessions adapted to fit the needs of all ages and abilities from elderly patients recovering from injury, to highly skilled professional athletes.

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