Mental Health

Exercise makes us feel good. It releases endorphins that give us a feeling of well being. Whether you have a mental health problem or not that has to be a feeling that’s worth having.

There is more information on how being active helps with these conditions here

Depression

Exercise helps relieve mild to moderate depression, and can help prevent it returning. Low intensity exercise doesn’t have the same effect, you need to get a bit out of breath to benefit.

It helps if you choose the type of activity you want to do yourself. For some people structured group activities work best, for others something they can arrange themselves, such as cycling or running work better.

Studies have shown that physical activity might protect against depression later in life. One study on children (aged 9-15) showed the effects last up to 20 years later.

The BBC Get Inspired website has a truly inspirational story of a man suffering from bipolar disorder who has been helped by running.

What type of exercise is right

You need to get a bit out of breath to get the full benefit. Any aerobic exercise is good, including walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes.

Exercising outdoors in fresh air with others is particularly effective  – it’s makes you feel good to fuel the body and mind with oxygen and connect with others and with nature. Outdoor sport, gardening or volunteering with the Conservation Volunteers or at a local park or nature reserve are all excellent ways to make you feel better.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored.

Anxiety

A lot of studies have looked at the effect of physical activity on anxiety.  Many of them link physical activity to a consistent reduction in anxiety symptoms.

However the best effects appear to be when physical activity is used with other treatments.

What type of exercise is right

If you suffer from anxiety regular exercise can help. Try a mix of aerobic, resistance and flexibility training. Aerobic exercise includes walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

Exercising outdoors in fresh air with others makes you feel good. You might enjoy gardening, volunteering at local nature reserves or parks, or playing sport.

Resistance exercise includes any activity that works your muscles – this includes carrying shopping bags and simple sitting to standing exercises. As you feel more confident you can try using weights, resistance machines, squats, wall presses or press ups. Yoga also helps build up your muscles, it helps with flexibility too.

Flexibility and balance are also important. Any exercise that improves mobility or involves stretching or balancing is good and can help you build confidence. Tai Chi, yoga, dance and even playing bowls are good examples.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored.

Schizophrenia

Physical activity can play an important role in the treatment of schizophrenia. It has been shown to reduce negative symptoms.

A small number of studies on people with schizophrenia who are taking part in exercise programs have found a positive effect on physical health, quality of life and symptoms.

NICE recommend that people with schizophrenia are given advice on healthy eating and physical activity.

What type of exercise is right

Exercising outdoors in fresh air with others is particularly effective – it makes you feel good  and connects you with others and with nature. The Conservation Volunteers offer opportunities to get out and learn a range of new skills such as gardening, path building and habitat management.

Your local council might also have opportunities to volunteer at parks or nature reserves.

If you are not very active you should start with something like a regular daily walk. You’ll find over time you can walk further and as your fitness builds you can take on new activities.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored.

Sleep & psychological well-being

We sleep better if we are active. If you are having trouble sleeping, or have disturbed sleep increasing your activity levels may help.

Lots of studies have shown that people who are active have an increased feeling of well being. People report feeling more positive, fitter, invigorated, healthy and clear minded.

What type of exercise is right

You should aim to do some aerobic activity (ie something that raises your heart rate and gets you warmer), some resistance training (ie something that builds up your strength) and something that helps with flexibility. Start small, if you haven’t done much exercise in the past start with a gentle walk each day, and over time increase how far you walk and how fast you walk. As your fitness improves you can try other activities.

Aerobic exercise includes walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

Resistance exercise includes any activity that works your muscles – this includes carrying shopping bags and simple sitting to standing exercises. As you feel more confident you can try using weights, resistance machines, squats, wall presses or press ups. Yoga also helps build up your muscles, it helps with flexibility too.

Flexibility and balance are also important. Any exercise that improves mobility or involves stretching or balancing is good. Tai Chi, yoga, dance and even playing bowls are good examples.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored.

Dementia

Dementia is common in older people and most of us dread having to face it, so it is comforting to know that there is something we can do to reduce our risk.

There are several forms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia being the most common. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes increase the risk of vascular dementia.

Some of the risks of developing dementia can’t be changed, such as family history and age. However inactivity is the single biggest risk factor that we can control for Alzheimer’s.

There is clear evidence that people who follow the recommended levels of physical activity reduce their risk of developing dementia by between 20-30%. The more you exercise the lower your risk.

If you have dementia you can improve your symptoms through exercise. There is evidence that exercise improves cognitive function (memory and other brain processes) and improves your ability to carry out everyday activities.

NICE recommends that dementia patients are provided with care plans that include physical activity.

There is more information on how being active helps with this condition on the Alzheimer’s Society website

What type of exercise is right

If you have dementia or are caring for someone with dementia talk to a doctor about what exercise is right for you.

A regular daily walk will be of benefit to everyone, although this may need to be supervised. If you or the person you are caring for isn’t very active start small, with a short easy walk. Over time you can progress to longer walks and other activities.