Movement, mindfulness and mental health: how exercise improves mood
Feel better after a run? Chilled out after some yoga? Calmer after a walk in nature? It’s no surprise – mental and physical health are closely linked, as Jessica Badger knows very well.
In her role as accredited exercise physiotherapist with Logan City Council, Jessica’s work focuses on physical recovery – but she says mental health often goes hand in hand with physical health.
‘I will get clients referred to me with chronic conditions, whether that is a lung condition, chronic pain, or weight management, but it all impacts mental health too,’ she says.
‘The first thing is that often people with chronic conditions are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression – and research shows that there are many mental health benefits from exercise. You feel good, there is a chemical boost, and a real sense of achievement too when you set and meet goals.’
She says people who are stressed can blow off steam, people who are anxious can centre themselves, and people who are depressed can lift their mood – all through the right kind of exercise.
‘For me, it is about working with people to find the best exercise for them at any given time,’ Jessica says.
‘High intensity interval training has been shown to improve depression symptoms, vigorous exercise releases more endorphins, and with anxiety, calming exercises like yoga or tai chi can help.’
In addition to the exercise itself and its impacts on mood and mindset, Jessica says exercising with others offers a connection that gives another boost.
For people looking to take up exercise but not sure where to start, Jessica says there are many ways to find what suits you.
‘Finding an exercise physiologist is a good place to start – they are best placed professionals to help and provide support in overcoming any barriers that might be preventing you from starting,’ she says.
‘You could also find a family member or friend who might want to start with you – and then try a few different exercise modalities to find what you like best. You don’t have to pick one and stick with it, there is a form of exercise for everyone.’
She recommends looking on YouTube or other free exercise apps for ideas and guided workouts.
Most important: give it a go.
‘I love seeing people meet their potential through exercise,’ Jessica says.
‘So many people don’t realise what they are capable of and can do, and when you guide people to achieve something, you can see that their self-esteem improves, their mood, their confidence. It is so good to be part of that.’
Logan City Council offers a range of programs and services for people seeking to be more active: Active & Healthy program – Logan City Council