The Mental Health Picture


Over the past two days I’ve been able to increase my exercise.  As I mentioned yesterday,  I went to the gym, pedalled on the stationary bike and took the dog to the park.   As predicted, I woke up with a delicious smattering of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)  and decided to up the ante again this morning by taking Lucy to the dog park for a longer than usual walk and I also did 30 minutes on the bike today using an old, but very faithful and well used Spinervals DVD, Aerobase builder 17.   I did not do the whole DVD, rather I did 10 x 2 minute efforts with moderate resistance and 15 seconds recovery between each effort.    For the first time since the surgery, I actually sweated – and boy did it feel good!

I have been reflecting on the relationship between exercise and mental health.  We all seem to accept that exercise makes us feel good.  Many of my friends and teammates tell me that cycling is good for their mental state and having been relatively inactive for a fair while, my small effort today feels worthy of a “Titanic” inspired performance – “I’m the King (well Queen) of the World!!! Wooooooooo!”

Delving into some of the studies was interesting – in my thirty minutes of research, I uncovered studies from the 1950s suggesting the benefits of exercise upon mental health.   Most studies seem to conclude that often getting started is a barrier, particularly if you’re feeling depressed/low already – my own experience yesterday bears this out – the opportunity to have a catch up with a team mate became a no excuses clause to work up the courage to step into the gym again!  I had been rationalising the prospect of visiting – “I can only do 5 minutes therefore it’s not worth the investment in going”, but having my friend give me that unexpected push (i.e. you’re already in the building so you can’t wimp out now) was just what I needed.     Other studies ponder whether a decline in mental health makes you more resistant to the idea of exercise or whether stopping exercise results in a decline in mental health – for me, I pick number two!

Personally, the feeling of whether I can move (or not) impacts my mental outlook greatly.  It’s amazing that after just two days of moving around at a slightly higher intensity, I feel so much better about myself and about life in general.   I am also cultivating a theory that being outdoors and getting some natural sunlight seems to help as well.   Naturally that theory isn’t new to science but as I am a study of one, I feel so much better on my ‘visit to the dog park days’ than when I’m not outside.

Anyone care to share their experience?

2 thoughts on “The Mental Health Picture

  1. I’ve had periods of anxiety in my life over flying and one time I had a holiday with my family planned. I decided to experiment for the week leading up to my flight with getting up and exercising to see if this would reduce the anxiety levels. It was an amazing success. I got up and ran off the crazy and was able to get onto my flight without drugs.

  2. I used to wonder if the link was physiological – hormones rushing around the body, or psychological. I know in my case it was probably both (back when I exercised). My body would feel ‘worked’ and stronger and more supple and I’m sure endorphins were floating about, but also I’d feel proud of myself for having done something.


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