Moving for Mental Wellbeing
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Written by Larissa Cuff - Sport Bay of Plenty health team leader
September 23 to 29 is Mental Health Awareness Week and as part of the theme Explore your way to wellbeing – Whāia te ara hauora, Whitiora, we're exploring the benefits of physical activity on mental wellbeing.
Often when we talk about the benefits of physical activity we end up talking about the positive physical impacts. It’s well documented that being active keeps our heart healthy, it improves muscle strength and it lowers our risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But what’s frequently overlooked is the impact physical activity has on our mental wellbeing.
There’s plenty of research these days to show exercise can improve our mood, reduce stress and lower the risk and impacts of anxiety and depression.
Lift your mood
When we’re active our brain releases chemicals that make us feel good. Researchers have also found people feel more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active.
Lower your stress
There are many things that can trigger stress such as work, financial hardship or family problems and the physical signs of stress are pretty common: trouble sleeping, a loss of appetite, an increased heart rate, muscle tension and a low mood.
Physical activity can be very effective at relieving stress and its symptoms. Research also shows physically fit people tend to have a reduced stress response.
Reduce the risk and impacts of anxiety and depression
Moderate exercise three to five times a week can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression, but benefits can also be experienced from single bouts of exercise of less than 10 minutes. Physical activity can also help reduce anxiety levels.
Connect with others
The 2017 Value of Sport report by Sport New Zealand found 84 per cent of people surveyed believe sport and physical activity brings people together and creates a sense of belonging. Opportunities to connect with friends and family can break down feelings of isolation and help you feel supported.
Ways to be active
There are loads of ways to be active and it doesn’t necessarily involve joining a gym.
- Get active through everyday activities
Our Green Prescription team encourages clients to get active by doing small things that are part of day-to-day routines. Some good examples include parking a bit further away from the shops, taking the lift instead of the stairs or getting off the bus one stop earlier.
- Involve the family
Challenge the kids to a family dance-off where everyone takes turns to pick the music, or take a family walk after dinner and let family members choose a different route each time.
- Get out in the garden
Pulling some weeds or sowing some new seedlings can be a great way to work up a bit of a sweat, plus the garden can be a peaceful place to relax and unwind.
- All aboard the walking bus
Start or join a walking bus for school children.
- Try a new sport or recreation activity
Our Get Involved Directory has something for everyone and lists all sport and recreation activities available across the Bay of Plenty.
- Need a helping hand?
The Green Prescription programme is a six month healthy lifestyle programme that supports, informs and empowers people to nurture a healthy lifestyle. Check out our Green Prescription page for more details, and ask your GP for a referral.
Fluro Fest: Explore Your Way to Wellbeing
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week we’ll be joining other community organisations at the Fluro Fest: Explore Your Way to Wellbeing event on Sunday 29th September between 1 and 4pm, Tay Street, Mount Maunganui. Come down and say hi and find out more about how we can support you on your journey to better physical and mental wellbeing.
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