As 2022 begins, a lot of us are probably reflecting on the past two years, since Covid-19 entered the picture and drastically changed our lives.
This pandemic has presented us all with both challenges and opportunities, but one aspect that is mentioned consistently is its ever changing impact on our mental health. In the UK we have had several lockdowns, some periods of what felt like normality, new rules and restrictions and repeated changes to our daily routines and lives. As a result, experts say our mental health has significantly suffered.
According to two studies performed by Mind, the Mental Health Charity, 65% of adults aged 25+ and 68% aged 13-24 report their overall mental health being worse as a result of the pandemic.
The survey also asked how people have coped with this additional stress, anxiety and depression, and the most overwhelming response was by getting outside, which was reported by 75% of those surveyed. While this might imply that exercise was part of “spending time outside,” it was not explicitly reported. This raises questions as to whether exercise is a big enough focus for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression, when it absolutely should be!
As we start 2022 with the renewed uncertainty and concern over the Omicron variant, we ask you to consider making exercise a priority when constructing your mental health routine. The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of intense activity per week, preferably spread over 4-5 days per week. Getting the recommended amount of exercise has shown to boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, clinical depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
You may be thinking, “Well, where do I start?” Starting simple and small, and making realistic goals is more likely to lead to success when trying to form any habit. Therefore, set a sensible goal or routine for yourself, and just dive right in. You can start by walking for 20 minutes every morning before work, meeting a friend for a walk and coffee, or joining a gym and making a commitment to go (be sure to make this realistic!). If you are experienced in this area, perhaps set yourself a challenge or goal purely relating to consistency. Afterall, consistency and habit are where progress is made.
If you are in the gym doing a mix of both cardio and weight training, you will see improvements to your overall health and wellbeing. A stronger heart and a healthier set of lungs, as well as improved physical strength and endurance will lead to a happier and healthier life! Regular exercise in the gym can also reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type two diabetes and high cholesterol.
In addition to the physical benefits, joining a gym will give you a sense of accountability, and a community full of people with similar aims to you. These added benefits will make it easier to create positive habits and achieve your goals. Make exercise a part of your daily life in 2022 and stick with it! Your mental and physical health will thank you.
For the full MIND survey report, click the link below.
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