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‘Be Active’ today to boost your mood as well as your body (MHAW 2023)

Today, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 (MHAW) we’re exploring ‘Be Active’, ‘Me Kori Tonu’, not just for physical health but for mental wellbeing too.

Physical activity has long been recognised as crucial for maintaining our physical health and fitness. But did you know it’s also a powerful mood booster?

The Mind-Body Connection

Our minds and bodies are intimately connected. When we engage in physical activity, we release endorphins, often referred to as ‘feel-good’ hormones. These endorphins have a profound impact on our mood, reducing stress and anxiety, promoting relaxation, sharpening our thinking and boosting our creativity. 

Victoria University of Melbourne’s Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos, says that there is a growing body of research supporting the benefits of exercise on a range of mood states, including anxiety, stress and depression.

The effect may occur, she says, “through physiological and biochemical mechanisms, including endorphins, mitochondria, mammalian target of rapamycin, neurotransmitters and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and via the thermogenic hypothesis.”

The thermogenic hypothesis suggests that the increase in body temperature that occurs with exercise may reduce muscular tension and alter neuronal activity, thus reducing anxiety.

Prof. Apostolopoulos has also noted that exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation which can contribute to better health outcomes in people suffering from mood disorders.

She says, “As a researcher, and seeing the positive effects exercise has on overall health, in particular in mental health, exercise is a good option or a complimentary add-on therapy to current treatments.”

Add Exercise Into Your Day In Different, Fun Ways

There are lots of fun ways to incorporate physical activity into your day. Try a bush walk, climb the stairs or take a break from the computer with a mini dance party to your favourite playlist. As Spring hits down under, the garden is a good place to break a sweat while tending to a few weeds. How about meeting some friends at the park to kick around a ball? There are loads of free yoga and exercise videos on youtube or in the app store. Variety is key. Explore different forms of exercise to keep it fun.

Making exercise a ‘must’ rather than a ‘should’

Many of us know what we need to do to stay healthy but we just don’t do it. That’s why turning our ‘should’s into ‘musts’ is key. Personal development guru Tony Robbins is a proponent of discovering what you want – your ‘why’ or purpose – and using that as leverage to change your behaviour. What is it that you really want? Think about yourself in a peak physical and mental state. What is it you must do to be like that? What will happen if you don’t change?

Another way to motivate yourself to exercise is to keep a journal of your mood and stress levels before and after each exercise session. Do you notice better mental clarity and focus after being active? Do you sleep better? Which activities have the most positive impact on your mental health? When you can see the concrete benefits of exercise in your life, you will be more motivated to keep going!

To summarise,  ‘Be Active’ is a powerful pillar of mental health and wellbeing. Physical activity fuels our mood by releasing ‘feel-good’ hormones, reducing stress and enhancing mental clarity. Make exercise a must as part of your physical and mental health plan and try something new today!

Interested in checking in on your mental health this Mental Health Awareness Week? Check out Loffty comprehensive online mental health assessment.