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You are currently viewing The head case – physical activity and mental wellbeing

Last week was mental health awareness week.  We all have mental health.  It is the umbrella term covering our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing and affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.  Good mental health is an asset that helps us to thrive. Increasingly we mistakenly assume that ongoing stress is the price we have to pay to keep our lives on track.

Being physically active by doing something like Nordic walking can have a profoundly positive impact on our mental wellbeing.  According to Dr Justin Varney, lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, “Whilst every 10 minutes of exercise provides some benefit, doing 150 minutes a week cuts the chances of depression and dementia by a third, and boosts mental health at any age.”   
Here’s three reasons why:

  1. Exercising releases endorphins which can boost mood, lower stress and help improve sleep, it will also make us feel more energetic.  All of which encourages a clearer and more positive attitude.
  2. Getting outdoors during daylight hours encourages the brain to produce the chemicals serotonin and melatonin, improving mood, appetite and sleep. 
  3. Mood and self-esteem increase and perceived levels of stress reduce when we exercise in a green environment compared with exercising indoors or in built up environments. It’s thought that exercising outdoors is ‘blueprinted’ into our brains because it’s how we’ve developed as a species, we therefore have a positive emotional response when we return to it.  Plus it gives us a satisfying sense of progression which impacts on our perception of how hard we’re working. 

Don’t under estimate the power of Nordic walking.  Just because we love it and it feels ‘easy’ doesn’t mean that it isn’t doing us a massive amount of good.  If you want further proof, just read the latest Mental Health Foundation publication: How to Look after your mental health using exercise.