Sunday, October 16, 2011

Exercise and other things I should do regularly

So far on this website I have been sharing my insights into the various aspects of overcoming and managing a mental illness. My aim is to write a few hundred words on a more or less weekly basis, though this is my first post in a couple of weeks. 

The main reason for my recent interlude is that I have been writing a short feature article on managing depression for a health and lifestyle publication (which shall remain secret until it is published sometime in the coming weeks). Additionally, I am mindful not to provide half-baked words considering how serious the subject matter can be. For instance my most recent post before this one looked at suicide and how we can each play a part in helping to prevent this tragic loss of life.

Having noted the above I am pleased to today (in the spirit of rugby world cup enthusiasm) share some thoughts about an aspect of my long-term health management I have not as yet discussed: exercise. The first thing I would say is that the body and the mind are heavily reliant on each other, and what happens from the neck down has a big impact on what goes on "upstairs". Looking after the body is therefore an essential aspect of managing a mental illness.


The good news about exercise is that you do not need to be good at or enjoy watching sport in order to exercise regularly and effectively. I had the good fortune of enjoying ball sports during my primary and high school years as well as for most of my university life. In a sense my exercise was automatically programmed during this time.

I highly recommend team sports as an enjoyable and healthy way to increase your fitness while at the same time meeting others and getting to know people. However if getting to team practice/training sessions and competition games are not feasible for you due to job or other time constraints, I highly recommend finding other ways to exercise so that you maximise your health.

For me this involves being the member of a gym where I attend "group fitness" classes. Most gyms out there offer two basic components to individual exercise: 
  • a cardio and weights room where people exercise on an individual basis (which can involve the supervision/instruction of a personal trainer)
  • a large room or hall where a qualified trainer instructs groups of people usually in 30/45/60 minute blocks (this is what I do). There are a wide variety of classes usually offered that cater to different personal tastes. 
Of course there are plenty of options if neither team sports or gyms appeal to you. The main point I would like to make is that any person experiencing a mental illness such as depression or anxiety will definitely benefit from being regularly physically active. Getting going with this may require a bit of trial-and-error to find what works for you, but I can say from personal experience that the time you devote to finding ways to exercise in safe, reliable and frequent ways is invaluable to your mental health.