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Movement, Momentum and Mental Wellbeing: How does Physical Activity Feature in Your Life?



















It would be difficult to miss the current hype around the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and rightly so. The skill, commitment, determination, and shear hard work necessary to reach this level of sporting ability is inspirational. Undoubtably, both mental and physical health sit at the core of such success.


However, most of us are unlikely to reach such dizzy heights of sporting prowess. Nevertheless, we can use the momentum generated by this sporting event to consider the extent movement and/or exercise feature in our own daily life. In doing so, consider how we can improve the quality or frequency of our physical activity.


An increasing body of evidence exists linking physical activity with mental well-being. A recent study shows that not just aerobic exercise, but also resistance exercise can have positive outcomes in the treatment of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety(1). Additionally, analysis of related studies indicates that higher levels of physical activity are consistently linked to better mental health across all age, gender and geographical groups (2).


These results would suggest that we can all benefit from a consistent practice of exercise and/or movement. That being said, it is important to find the right type and amount of exercise that suits your circumstances, and importantly, offers a realistic chance of following through. Ask yourself "out of 10, how likely is it that I can commit to this new exercise routine?" If it's 7 or less, start with something less demanding or time consuming. Achievable small steps are the way to go! You can build on these when the time is right.


Luckily, there are so many options to choose from. Examples may include:


1. Small changes - such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, a few minutes of stretching two or more times a day, starting or ending your day with a 10-minute walk, engage in an online exercise class at home, or have a weekly and regular walk-time with a friend.


2. Link your physical activity to connecting with others - such as joining a gym or yoga class, join a walking or hiking group, learning or improving your swim proficiency, join a local sport club or take up bowling or dancing.


3. Explore a less mainstream way of exercising - such as rock climbing, gymnastics, pole dancing, training for a marathon or in martial arts.


There are numerous possibilities to suit all levels of fitness and interest. Of course, remember to be safe and seek advice about the suitability of any new activity. As a starting point, you may find the NSW guidelines on activity and exercise of interest: https://www.health.gov.au/topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians


We may never play in a World Cup, but we can absolutely find enjoyment, fulfilment, connectedness, improved fitness and better mental health by establishing our own regular exercise and movement practice. Let's get going! 😊




References:


(1) Smith & Merwin (2021. The Role of Exercise in Management of Mental Health Disorders: An Integrative Review. Annual Review of Medicine 72:1, 45-62


(2) Schuch et al. 2018. Physical Activity and Incident Depression: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17111194





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