The 14th September each year marks the promotion of positive mental health across Australia, and today, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) supports the initiative of R U OK Day, by encouraging Aussies to reconnect through physical activity and ask each other “R U OK?”
“Socialising through the efforts of exercise can have significant benefits to those living with a mental health condition,” explains Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.
“Exercise is proven to be effective as a part of treatment for mental illnesses. Exercising with someone and starting those conversations of “R U OK?” can help manage someone’s mental health and keep them on track with treatment, or at least check in to let them know they have support available.”
With research showing us that being physically active is associated with lower suicidal ideations, exercise has a clear role in maintaining and promoting the physical and mental well-being of Australians in order to help prevent and manage chronic conditions and illnesses, such as poor mental health.
“With 1 in 5 Australians experiencing a mental illness each year, we all should be taking responsibility to regularly connect and support others. Asking how someone is doing and engaging in meaningful conversations during exercise is an opportune time to do this, as it can be less confronting than sitting opposite someone,” says Ms Hobson-Powell.
Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines indicate that accumulating 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) of moderate intensity exercise each week will greatly benefit your physical and mental health.
Higher doses of exercise may be more effective at improving mental illness but people may be less likely to stick to them. As such, start slowly and build up gradually.
For example, if you have not been exercising at all, start with a 10-15 minute walk each morning, and gradually increase this to 30 minutes per day.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Beth Sheehan, explains that being socially connected with a friend or co-worker is a great way to engage in exercise, and in turn, reconnect and chat about each other’s mental well-being.
“It’s recommended that you try a variety of different types of activities and choose one that you enjoy the most. By incorporating the social element it can take the pressure off the ideology of exercising for your health, and more about enjoying your time together,” shares Beth.
“Finding your connection or ‘hook’ with exercise is important.”
Top five tips to exercise right for your mental health:
It’s important to speak with an appropriately educated professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or Accredited Exercise Scientist, who understands the benefits of physical activity on mental health conditions, and has the skills and knowledge to help individuals manage their condition through exercise.
To find out more about how to exercise right, visit the Exercise Right website.
To locate your local accredited exercise professional, visit the ESSA website.
To find out more information about R U OK Day, click here.