10 October 2021 is World Mental Health Day. Today, it is important to focus on our mental health and what can be done to improve it.
Throughout this pandemic, we have seen a major impact on people’s mental health within a number of groups. People of all ages have been affected. These include health and frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, being particularly affected.
1 in 8 Australians is currently experiencing high or very high psychological distress
Almost 1 in 7 children and adolescents aged 4-17 have experienced a mental health disorder in the previous 12 months
Almost half of all Australians experience a mental illness in their lifetime
1 in 5 adults affected by mental health every year
1 in 5 Australians has taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy
Exercise benefits relating to mental health include:
Improvement in focus, school performance, sleep and energy levels
Improvement relationships, social skills and more positive body image
Reducing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain and loneliness
Improved ability to cope with stress and have increased resilience
Self-esteem and self-worth improvement
The enjoyment of exercise is important to build a positive exercise experience and can help improve motivation. There are a number of things that can help with differing groups whose mental health has been impacted, such as:
Find something they enjoy. Whether its bike riding, swimming, playing ball sports or running at the park.
Get the whole family involved.
Organising active family outings such as a walk around the neighbourhood or a bike ride is a great way to increase physical activity levels and explore the local community.
This provides needed support for children to get involved in regular exercise.
Adults and work
Australian workplaces should be proactive in their approach by promoting active workplaces. Being physically active plays a key role in developing, maintaining and promoting a positive mental health culture at work. There are easy ways for management to introduce more physical activity in the workplace:
Regular exercise routine can boost work performance, improving cognition, mental flexibility and memory while reducing stress and anxiety.
Research shows that just one hour of exercise a week can help to protect against depression
Allow flexible work hours to provide employees the chance to make time for physical activity
Encouraging walking or stand-up meetings
Educate staff as to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle
Group exercise sessions with rotating trainers (consider zoom sessions based on current guidelines)
There are significant lasting effects with exercise interventions on those living with mental health conditions. On follow-up after an exercise intervention, research shows that people with symptoms of depression showed long-term improvements in their mental health.