“I want to treat my body with respect. Swimming helps me to relax and unwind.”
Being active can be an effective way to maintain your physical and mental health. Physical activity doesn't have to be exercise. It could be anything you do in your day-to-day life – like running errands or doing housework.
You may have physical limitations or a condition that would make physical activity harmful, or perhaps impossible. Or you may be going through a stressful time. Whatever your personal circumstances are, different people need different levels of physical activity and exercise. It helps to talk to your doctor to determine what kind of physical activity is right for you.
If you're able, you can start small. Light gardening or chores around the house could be a start. If you prefer group activities – indoors or outdoors – team sports, yoga, or dancing may be the way to go. Finding a friend, or even a pet, to walk with can make physical activity easier and more fun.
Regular physical activity can be a good way to boost your mood, reduce stress, and even improve sleep. It is also known to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
A closer look
Being physically active makes you feel good
The brain releases two types of mood-enhancing chemicals while you exercise: endorphins and serotonin. Exercise helps with memory and learning and can also reduce the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, obesity, dementia, and some cancers. It can also bring about changes in the brain that promote positivity and feelings of calm and overall wellbeing. (Source)
Walking is the perfect exercise
Walking has been described as the nearest thing to a perfect exercise. It costs nothing, can be done pretty much anywhere, and is suitable for people of different ages and fitness levels. Studies have shown that walking at a brisk pace (5-8 km per hour) can lead to improved blood pressure, and it can lower risk of heart disease and reduce symptoms of depression. (Source)
Exercising outdoors can have extra benefits
Exercising in natural environments has been shown to have greater benefits for mental health than exercising elsewhere. Walking in a bushy area has been shown to reduce stress hormones better than walking in a built up area. Research has also shown particular benefits of sports like swimming in the ocean and surfing – where the weightlessness of water can have a calming effect on the mind. (Source)
Too much exercise may not be healthy
Physical activity is good for your health and wellbeing. However, if you are exercising constantly or find it hard to stop exercising, it's important to talk to someone about what is going on. Excessive exercising (e.g. exercising in bad weather or when sick or injured, or experiencing distress if exercise is not possible) is one of the warning signs that you may be experiencing an eating disorder. (Source)
Playing footy is a huge part of my life. It's the only time I can properly feel my emotions and regulate them because I know it's something I'm good at. That's a big outlet for me. I get to clear my head and distract myself from what's going on in my mind.
Exercise helped me cope. I got on my bike, I ran, I did exercise classes. I found it such a great release. It was lovely to get out in the fresh air, and to calm my mind.
Yoga has been a big part of my treatment. Finding something physical that helps has been great. It doesn't have to be intense exercise.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).