Exercise and Mental Health
A quick search on google scholar, or any reputable scientific journal database, will return innumerable results on the benefits of exercise on mental health.
Before we delve into the benefits of exercise on mental health, let's give you our definition of what mental health entails.
Typically mental health is associated with the presence or absence of mental illness.
Mental illness is a very powerful and complex issue that effects those who battle with it in such vastly different ways. We wouldn’t dream of trying to tackle an issue that serious in a generic online program. If you think you may be dealing with a mental illness PLEASE, go and speak to your local doctor, who can refer you to a counsellor, psychiatrist or psychologist.
At Sweat Therapy, we look at mental health as a much broader collection of things* that together contribute to overall mental wellness and help us live and perform at our very best.
When we talk about improving our Mental Health, we break that down into the following key areas.
- Self Awareness
- Emotional Regulation
- Stress management
Studies have been done on the benefits of exercise in stress reduction, emotional regulation, improving confidence, self esteem, self efficacy and self image, teaching habit formation, improving cognitive function and it’s has also been shown to have positive effects on anxiety, depression and many other mental health issues.
(A personal note from Sweat Therapy founder Khan Porter)
Fitness has always been a form of therapy for me.
When I was a kid my parents would take me to the park after school and time how long it would take me to run from object to object, so I would be calm be focused enough to do my homework. My brothers and I were made to play sports in both summer and winter and as I got older, I would go running in the trails around my house and use bricks to do bicep curls and presses after school. My whole life I have used movement as a means of helping manage a myriad of complex mental and emotional issues. Stress, self confidence, identity, depression, anxiety, fear, coping with failure and anger.
Movement was a way for me to turn down the noise in my head and in the world around me and take a moment in time and make it my own.
I turned my passion for fitness into a career as a professional CrossFit Athlete, however in 2017 I suffered a major set back in that career and failed to qualify for the CrossFit Games. I was burnt out and ready to quit the sport all together. However in the months that followed I began to change the way I approached training completely, going back to the thing I loved about it. Long sweaty EMOM's, throwing down with my mates, prioritising leaving the gym in a better mood than when I arrived in it.
Not surprisingly, I started to see huge benefits in my performance as well.
Having began studying psychology formally at university, I immersed myself in the study of how us human beings ticked. Motivation, concentration and focus, behavioural change, happiness, fulfilment, cognitive function, relationships and how we interact with one another I had a thirst for it all, but as I was still an athlete at heart, I was always trying to link what I was learning to how to better develop my approach to improving myself mentally and physically in the gym.
At the core of this were several things, but one stood out.
I trained more when I was enjoying it and performed at my best when I felt good and was having fun, both feelings I could achieve through training.
I suffer from mental health issues myself and have seen countless doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, yogis, gurus, coaches and mentors over the many years I’ve tried to manage my conditions.
The rhythm of a burpee box jump over, the whirr of an assault bike, the clang of a barbell. This is meditation for me. Taking the competition floor, in front of thousands of people at the CrossFit Games. Pushing myself physically in the gym or in the competition floor. These are the things that help me drown out the noise in my head.
Whilst we are not advocating this program take the place of regular therapy from a licensed professional (and in fact a lot of the mental health education stuff we do will be centred around taking ownership of your mental health by regularly working with a therapist) we believe an enjoyable workout a few times a week can do wonders for your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
If you think you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health issue, please contact your GP for a referral to see a licensed Psychologist or Psychiatrist or call Lifeline on 13-11-14 (Aus only) if you need to speak to someone immediately.