Exercise for Wellness: More than Just Physical Benefits?

It’s time to check in and make sure your health isn’t suffering. This month, we are asking our customers to take the time to think about one aspect of their health each week and look to make a positive change. We’re giving you a breakdown of why these areas are important, tips on how to take some action, and we’re also asking you to take part in our #Alimentwellnessmonth challenge - take us and use the hashtag to show and tell us the changes you’re making. This week, it’s all about exercise.

Week 2 Of Wellness Month - Exercise

We all know the positive effects that exercise can have for our physical well-being - from reducing our risk of metabolic diseases to ensuring we have the strength and endurance to carry out everyday tasks. But does it affect our mental health and well being? Depression is considered the most disabling disorder worldwide measured in years lived with disability (1). Let’s take a look.

The Evidence

A large study in 2018 analysed data from 1,237,194 adults in the US (2). Specifically the number of days of “bad” self-reported mental health between individuals who exercised and those who did not. This was a simple way to measure how much of an effect exercise and sport had on mental wellbeing in otherwise healthy adults.

What they showed was that those people who exercised 3-5 times a week had nearly half as many “bad” days compared to people who did not exercise. And this was true regardless of the sport or exercise that people were doing.

They were also able to control for other factors that might have affected the results such as marital status, financial income, and level of education. What they showed was that those people who exercised 3-5 times a week had nearly half as many “bad” days compared to people who did not exercise. And this was true regardless of the sport or exercise that people were doing. More was not necessarily better though. Those who trained more often than actually scored worse than those who did no exercise. So if you’re in a strenuous phase of training, make sure you’re taking extra care of your mental health and wellbeing.

More is not always better. Some data suggests that those who exercise the most, can have worse mental health measures as those who do no exercise.

Better Than Mindfullness?

Mindfulness is an awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment. Recently, mindfulness training has been becoming more mainstream and used by more and more people as a way to improve their mental wellbeing. Mindfulness practice can involve meditation, journaling, or formal learning from a qualified teacher.

One of the surprise findings of the study came when they compared mindfulness training to the effects of regular exercise. When they compared these, they were both seen to be equally effective. 

A recent review was carried out to look at the effectiveness of mindfulness training on measures of anxiety, stress, depression and other negative mental health markers. A total 11,605 participants from 136 different trials were included in the final review (3). What the researchers found was that, yes, mindfulness training promoted mental health compared to doing nothing. However, one of the surprise findings of the study came when they compared mindfulness training to the effects of regular exercise. When they compared these, they were both seen to be equally effective. So while mindfulness training might be becoming more popular, you might not have to jump on this particular bandwagon to give your mental health a bit of a boost.

Making It Work For You

For any individual then, one of the key things to do is make sure whatever activity you choose, it’s something that you enjoy or want to do. Even if you enjoy training, or have been training a number of years, reflect and think about what you’re doing. Is it time for a new challenge or type of training? Are you training with other people that make your workouts fun? While we don’t always have to be training to reach a particular goal, sometimes this can help give us a focus for a period of time.

The Challenge

Whether you have always found it difficult to exercise regularly, been struggling to get back into training after lockdown, or even if you have been training for years, here are a few things to think about and challenge yourself with this week: 

  • Write down your training plan for a week. This can do a few things. It can make you accountable if you’re getting back into training for the first time. For those that regularly train, this might be one of the first times you have looked at an entire week’s worth of training. How much do you do? How much rest are you getting between? Do you always training by yourself?
  • Try something completely new - a new type of training in the gym, a new exercise. Even if you don’t want to change up your training plan too much, make changes in other ways. Go and train at a different time of the day, go and train in a completely new location or facility, train with someone you know but that you’ve never exercised with before.

head over to our facebook or instagram pages and tag us with your photo of your sleep journal and let us know what steps you’re taking to look after you sleep this month. Make sure to use the hashtag #Alimentwellnessmonth

References

  1. Global, regional, and national disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 359 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE) for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017., GBD 2017 DALYs and HALE Collaborators., Lancet. 2018 Nov 10; 392(10159):1859-1922.

2) Chekroud, S. R., Gueorguieva, R., Zheutlin, A. B., Paulus, M., Krumholz, H. M., Krystal, J. H., & Chekroud, A. M. (2018). Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1· 2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(9), 739-746.

 

3) Galante, J., Friedrich, C., Dawson, A. F., Modrego-Alarcón, M., Gebbing, P., Delgado-Suárez, I., ... & Jones, P. B. (2021). Mindfulness-based programmes for mental health promotion in adults in nonclinical settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. PLoS medicine, 18(1), e1003481