Mental health and the benefits of exercise
Mental health is just as important as physical health but it often still feels like there’s some resistance in talking about and tackling mental illness.
This week, we’ve been discussing the link between a healthy lifestyle and a healthy mind. We’ve been exploring the effects that exercise can have on your emotions, what you can do to raise your spirits, and what help you can access in our local community.
The link between exercise and mental health
There is growing evidence that mental health can be improved by staying active and spending time outdoors. Here at Betteshanger, we like to think we know all there is to know about fun, outdoor activities. And we know that the time we spend in the sunshine and fresh air makes us feel more energetic and positive.
Experts (including the NHS) believe that physical activity can help to boost your mental health and well-being. It’s suggested that becoming physically fit can help to boost self-confidence, plus exercise releases ‘feel good’ dopamine into our bodies (read our Easter blog for more). ‘Physical activity is thought to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood.’
“I used to tell my members that the first thing a doctor would prescribe to someone struggling with depression, is physical exercise,” says Natalie Lewin, former Weight Watchers coach, now working at Betteshanger Park. “We always used to say: you’re only one move away from a good mood.”
When you’re in a dark place, it’s important to surround yourself with support and learn to have fun again. We recognise this, which is why we’re always looking for ways to encourage our visitors and community to adopt an active lifestyle. One of our main focuses is to offer activities that are both physically and mentally stimulating, that can bring people together and that ignite healthy competition.
Supporting your active lifestyle
“Most of all, it’s important to be surrounded by supportive people. My advice to people suffering from mental health problems is to contact your GP, get out of the house and seek out that support from people around you, who can encourage you and motivate you to eat healthily, get exercise and engage in fun, creative activities.”
Tracy also encourages anybody in Deal, or the surrounding areas, who would like that extra support, to contact Talk It Out. They run a drop-in centre, provide friendly advice and 24-hour support. They also arrange activities and trips for their members, all with the aim of promoting physical activity and self-care. You can contact Talk It Out on Facebook and request an invitation to their private page.
Try something new
There are plenty of ways to get that kick of dopamine and have fun exercising. Here are a few ideas we’ve thought up to keep your mind and body happy:
- Walking groups
If you want to take things a little slower, why not join a local walking group, to meet new people and keep active at your own pace?
Going out for a jog or a run can be a great way to clear your mind, manage stress levels and improve your general fitness. Doing it with a friend could give you an extra reason to be social and reconnect with the people you love.
Our smooth tarmac track is great for bikes, but it’s also the perfect surface for a spot of rollerblading with friends (please keep out of the fast lane and be aware of other track users).
Perhaps overlooked as a way to exercise, volunteering is a great way to get out of the house and socialising with like-minded people. Working as part of the team, our Betteshanger volunteers are integral to helping keep our Park looking fantastic.