How to look after your mental health using exercise

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There are many reasons why physical activity is good for your body – having a healthy heart and improving your joints and bones are just two, but did you know that physical activity is also beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing?[1]

We need to change the way we view physical activity in the UK in order not to see it as something we ‘have to do’, ‘should do’ or ‘ought to do’ for our health, but as something that we do because we personally value its positive benefits to our wellbeing.

As part of our work to promote better mental health, we have produced this pocket guide to show the positive impact that physical activity can have on your own mental wellbeing, including some tips and suggestions to help you get started.

Being active doesn’t have to mean doing sport or going to the gym. There are lots of ways to be active; find the one that works for you and let’s all get physical!

What is physical activity?

At a very basic level, physical activity means any movement of your body that uses your muscles and expends energy.[2] One of the great things about physical activity is that there are endless possibilities and there will be an activity to suit almost everyone!

It is recommended that the average adult should do between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise a week.[3] This can be either moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, hiking or riding a bike, or it can be more vigorous activities, such as running, swimming fast, aerobics or skipping with a rope. Any activity that raises your heart rate, makes you breathe faster, and makes you feel warmer counts towards your exercise![4]

An easy way to look at types of physical activity is to put them into four separate categories.

Daily physical activity

For adults, physical activity can include recreational or leisure-time physical activity,

transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational activity (i.e. work), household chores, play, games, sports, or planned exercise in the context of daily, family, and community activities.[5]

Everyday things such as walking to the bus stop, carrying bags or climbing stairs all count, and can add up to the 150 minutes of exercise a week recommended for the average adult.

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