Exercise For Mental Health: Real Life Experience
During Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2019, we invited local woman, Carrie Martin, to spend a month enjoying the benefits of a Live Active membership. Carrie was given access to gym, classes and pool and was asked to keep a note of how regular activity impacted on her sense of wellbeing and mental health.
We felt that this year, during what is undoubtedly a tough time mentally for everyone, we'd revisit Carrie's expereince and update it with some lockdown-friendly tips that you can put into practice at home.
As someone who has struggled with both anxiety and depression over the years, Carrie is only too aware of the downward spiral that comes from not looking after herself.
When I stick to a regular routine, I feel more energetic, more bright and alert. “For me, I know that when I take care of myself things are better – and the opposite is also true! It only takes a couple of weekends out to affect how I feel about myself and others around me. It starts with not sleeping, then I’ll order takeaway because I can’t be bothered cooking, and form there I’m feeling down and disappointed in myself, which of course makes the whole worse.
“It is a really destructive cycle, as anyone who lives with depression will know. The stages of blow out, despair and then beating myself up are awful but the older I get the more I realise that there are ongoing choices I can make to help me stay more positive.”
“Looking after myself is a big part of this. It is so important for my self-esteem and general wellbeing and exercise is a huge part of that. When I stick to a regular routine, as I did with my month in May, I feel more energetic, more bright and alert.
"Most importantly, I feel pleased with myself. I feel as though I’ve accomplished something worthwhile. One hour out of the day can make me feel amazing and this is what I now try to keep in mind when that feeling of ‘I can’t be bothered’ sneaks in.”
Carrie tried out various classes and exercises during her month’s membership: yoga, gym, ladies circuit and kettlebells were all part of the mix she went for in a bid for that feel-good factor!
You'll find out more about how she got on below, but first we'd like to point you in the direction of Carrie's favourite classes on our At Home Hub for you to try out in lockdown:
- If you enjoy Yoga try Kirsty's pilates OR check out some quick yoga poses for refreshing your mind in just a few minutes
How Exercise Helped My Mental Health: Carrie Martin
“You do get a buzz – depending on high the intensity is – and it is honestly one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. I was bright red in the face, sweating and completely burst, and yet when I stepped under that hot shower I felt alive! The happy endorphins had properly kicked in!”
During the period of her membership Carrie found that other areas of her life were impacted positively thanks to her new-found routine.
“When I’m ‘in the zone’ I definitely feel motivated to make better choices all round. I think it’s the routine – I’m good with routine and I like to stick to it. I eat better, I cycle places to get around – it’s the spiral effect going up the way!
When I’m ‘in the zone’ I definitely feel motivated to make better choices all round - and it’s always going to be better than sitting on the couch!“I work as a Social Care Officer and I do think that my job sometimes contributes to my mood. I love what I do but I’m on high alert all day and I can feel drained when I get home. The classes worked well for me because they got me out of the house and into a room with other people.
"At first I was a bit nervous going in, but you just need to remind yourself that they’re all there for the same reason – we all just want to feel a bit better, either mentally, for weight loss or just general fitness. Once I got past the self-consciousness that comes from having your bum in the air in a room full of strangers, it was great!
"Let’s be honest, it’s always going to be better than sitting on the couch! In fact, it’s a bit like therapy!”
Further information and resources
During the coronavirus lockdown period we have created an At Home Hub of various excersises. These are split into three main sections.
Fitness: There is a whole host of exercises in here including a great How To section for anyone just starting out. You'll also find some hi-intensity classes if you're a regular exerciser and low intensity if you're looking to build your fitness levels from a beginner stage. Find out more >>>
Wellbeing: These are the low impact exercises and resources to keep the most vulnerable people in our communities healthy, active and feeling connected. There are chair based sessions for anyoen with mobility issues and social aerobics classes for those missing their weekly class. Find out more >>>
Young People: The kids are so out of a routine it can be hard to even remember what day of at-home school you're on! This brings you all the workout ideas, activities, handy links and resources your family needs to stay active and entertained. Find out more >>>
The Mental Health Foundation is focused on the prevention of mental health problems and supporting good mental health for all. Further information about mental health prevention can be found on their website here:
- Mental Health Foundation Podcast on mental ill-health prevention
- Mental Health Foundation blog series on prevention
If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority. If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP, you should visit your local A&E.
Below are details on services and organisations that offer help and support directly to people with mental health problems: