The health benefits of movement, exercise, and an active lifestyle are clearly understood. I’d like to call out an often overlooked or simplified idea when it comes to the mental health benefits of exercise.
Yes, exercise and movement are great for our mental health, but not a solution or therapy for mental health problems. Too many people get caught in the trap of running from their problems, of exercising away their insecurities, compulsions, fears, anxieties, and challenges. I acknowledge that there is short-term symptom relief, but in the end, the problems persist and often get worse, or our level of exercise needs to increase to keep up with the avoidance strategy.
If you’re using exercise as a therapy or a solution to your problems, there’s one benefit you have going for you. You’re likely to be fit! That’s great, and it gives you a leg up on improving your overall health and wellbeing, but you’re probably not healing from your mental health struggles. It takes courage to face up to your fears, to acknowledge if this is your situation. When we start opening up to our hidden or stuffed feelings, we give ourselves the opportunity for our wellbeing to flourish.
‘Avoid problems, and you’ll never be the one who overcame them‘ – Richard Bach
My experience in recovery from addiction and mental illness is one more focused on healing my mind, soul, and heart. I was on the other side of this story. I focused on improving the other areas of my life while leaving the movement and an active lifestyle lower on the priority list. Over the past few months, I’ve made a concerted effort to ensure I’m active ‘CONSISTENTLY’ and it’s lifted my overall mood, energy, and capacity to handle stress and anxiety. After five years of dedicated work to heal and flourish, I’m adding the concerted effort of a consistently active lifestyle, and it’s helping me live a more contented life.
What makes an active lifestyle even more enjoyable is doing it with others. When I got connected with other people and groups to exercise with, it added more enjoyment and a sense of connection that’s admittedly lacking for people who live with or have lived with mental health problems. So let’s get off our butts, get connected, and take agency over our lives.
We’re covering these themes at our next event ‘State Of Mind‘ – ‘Movement & Mental Health’ event coming up this Sunday, April 9th at the Runner’s Academy. Join us as we welcome Canadian Olympian & Pan Am Games Silver Medalist Sarah Wells, Dr. Kris Sheppard, and Brian Nicols of One Strength OCR to discuss personal journeys, creating healthy spaces for young people to experience wellbeing through movement, and how we’re working to bring a different lens to the world of mental health.
Starts With Me supports a holistic approach to wellbeing and recovery, in community building, and in the power of taking responsibility for your life and to ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ – Gandhi