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Exercise For Your Mental Health

You know exercise is important for your physical health, but are you aware it’s also extremely beneficial in improving mental health too?   

We’re all being encouraged to move more often – that’s one of the reasons why modern phones are equipped with fancy fitness apps. These can track and help us maintain fitness goals – even going as far as sounding an alerting when you haven’t had enough deep breaths!

However you get your fitness and movement, it can only be a good thing. Here at the Waiheke Recreation Centre, we know we’ve got a fantastic resource, available for the community to use and participate in.

There’s a range of fitness opportunities on offer, so check out our calendar to find something you can get involved in. We have a number of racquet and ball sports such as badminton, netball, basketball or volleyball – these sports can be as intensive as you wish, you can play for some of the time and rest for some of the time. Basically, you can be the judge. Any amount of exercise can provide so many health benefits for now and for the long run.

Some of the benefits of physical exercise to our physical health can be as simple as weight maintenance, good blood circulation, heart rate and oxygen levels. But moving your body in this way can also greatly affect your mental health.

Exercise For Your Mental Health
Let’s play ball – for mental health !

As the pandemic wanes, some of us might still carry around a layer of anxiety especially for those going back to face-to-face work environments. Some might be feeling “cooped up” from work-from-home regimens. Some might simply be feeling down from the seasons, and looking for a little boost.

Instead of grabbing another cup of coffee or getting your hype up from junk food or watching even more movies on the couch, consider including more physical exercise. Here are just some ways physical exercise can help your mental health.

Exercise For Your Mental Health

Have you noticed how your body feels under stress? Without getting too deep into the physiology, a couple of things are worth mentioning here. Did you know the brain and body is hard-wired to react to stress in the same way it behaves when confronted by a predator?

While the risk of a real predator may have diminished these days, the ‘tiger(s) in the tall grass’ of modern life are the huge workloads, paying all the bills, ‘taking care’ of the family and the general pressures of life. Your body and brain reacts to all of these as stimulants as threats and responds accordingly.

Adrenaline is released to increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure and Cortisol is produced to increase sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream. Along with other substances, these enable your body and brain to react faster as your being tries to cope with what’s happening.

Now all of that is harmless in small doses – your body normally reverts back to a relaxed state, once the threat has passed. However, the modern tigers are harder to avoid and the stress levels can be difficult to get past.

Carrying large amounts of stress, as we all know, is bad, since you’re body and brain is working at harder and at higher levels. In the medium-long term, this can result in health issues.

Exercise to reduce stress
The Tiger In The Long Grass is now our daily lifestyles….

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-stress and anti-anxiety treatment as it helps relieve tension and stress and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Physical activity helps to relax the muscles. Pay attention to your body while doing any form of physical activity and you can really notice the relaxing effect.

By taking a moment to fully absorb the awesome power of our physical movement, especially if we can breath easily and deeply, we can also help to focus the mind on the body and quiet the mind’s constant flow of worries.

When we ‘turn off’ the mind through physical movement and exercise, we can greatly reduce the stress levels. The more demanding the exercise level, the greater the reward, but you don’t have to run a marathon, unless you want to!

Exercise can help you get better sleep

Have some troubles catching the Zs? You need to try a game of racquet sport at the Waiheke Rec Centre.

Physical activity can help increase your body temperature which provides calming effects to the mind. It also helps with the circadian rhythm, which assists us with an internal body clock. However, it’s important to make sure you don’t do too much exercise close to bedtime, since physical movement can be too stimulating. 

Generally, it’s recommended to exercise no less than 2-3 hours prior to sleeping. If you go for a game, or even just a run about, then take a hot shower and have a light snack, you’ll be dropping off in no time.

Exercise can provide sharper memory and thinking

Because physical activity gets your blood pumping, it brings a bunch of ‘the good stuff’ to your brain which can help you to think more clearly – that’s why a lot of leaders, celebrities, and influential people always mention how they start their day with a workout.

Your Brain and Exercise For Your Mental Health

Exercise increases the size of your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for your memory. It also increases the connections between the nerve cells in your brain, which helps improve your memory and even protect it against injury and disease.

From building intelligence to strengthening memory, research on daily physical exercise has since shown how it can boost brain power in multiple ways.

Exercise helps increase self-esteem and confidence

As you move more (and of course, while you eat a balanced diet), you can become more toned and potentially lose that unnecessary weight you’ve been wanting to drop. Experience improved endurance and of course, you can also work on increasing your physical achievements – 6,000 steps a day, leading to 8,000 steps, leading to 10,000 steps and more!

All of these goals can add up to a whopping boost of self-esteem. Let’s be honest, if you put the work in, you’ll feel better because you’ll look better and if you look better, you’ll feel better! Cause don’t you feel better if you look better?

Yes, it is a circular conundrum, because we all know what it feels like to go the other way too (especially after a Covid lockdown blob session!)

Self confidence

Apart from a set of good-fitting clothes and a slimmer physique, sweating out those unwanted toxins from your body through daily physical exercise also improves your skin. It can help you maintain a healthy glow and smile not to mention increased strength!

Exercise can be a good source of social support

Come and join us for some fun and physical activity! Group sports are great avenues to find social support.

Exercising with others can give you a double dose of stress relief. You get to make new connections too! Plus, how fun is it to track your progress with a group who has similar goals.

Working out with others can not only give you a boost in social skills, it can also help with setting aside whatever stress-inducing thoughts you have and focusing on your body and your physical activity while you’re at it.

Without a doubt, physical exercise carries with it a lot of amazing benefits to your whole self. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when our body feels better, our mind will too.

At the Rec Centre, we have a number of groups. Some have 5 members, some have 50. You can enjoy all the benefits of a Rec Centre workout without worrying about space or the weather! Check our website and get in touch with the organiser of any class or activity to find out what availability they have.

If the sport of activity you’d like to play isn’t currently available, feel free to get in touch to discuss it! So long as it’s safe and can be conducted in the facility without causing damage, all suggestions are welcome.


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