Tuesday 25 October 2016

Karl Henry: Exercise for your body and mind

Working out doesn't just aid physical results, says our fitness expert. Any type of movement can have a hugely positive impact on your well-being. Here, the trainer sets out a seven-day challenge to look after your mental health

Karl Henry

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Challenge: Karl Henry has set a new mental health challenge
Challenge: Karl Henry has set a new mental health challenge

Never before has mental health been more prevalent in the media and in conversation in Ireland. For the first time that I can remember, it has become okay for men and women to talk about their mood, their unhappiness, their feelings and how it affects them. It is an incredibly powerful message - one that only helps others out there who suffer from mental health issues.

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In a world where medication can be so easily advised and prescribed, this week I wanted to bring you a column with what I feel is another solution; one that costs little, but can deliver a huge range of benefits for your mental well-being. That solution is movement. By exercising for any length of time and with any form of movement, you will likely feel better, think more clearly, and improve your mood and outlook on life around you. Sedentary lifestyles can really lower your mood.

Did you know?:

• Irish adults aged 15+ watched TV for an average of 3 hours and 6 minutes each day in July 2016

• 39pc of Irish people sit for 5-10 hours each day, 31pc sit for over 10 hours

• On average, we spend 94-110 minutes per day commuting

• If you sleep 8 hours a night, that's 56 hours a week sleeping

So that's a serious amount of sedentary activity. Perhaps it's no wonder lots of people are feeling worse these days. This is where exercise comes in. If you can move morem, you will feel better. If you can move a little faster to push your body, you will feel better again. If you can do some form of resistance training you will improve further. Remember, any form of movement will do, just move. If you don't believe me, then try it. Rate your mood daily for the next seven days. Get more exercise in each day and continue to rate your mood - watch what happens.

What you eat is crucial too; eating less processed foods and more clean fuel can have a huge benefit on body and soul.

Foods that are high in sugar will give you a rapid mood boost followed by a rapid mood downer, getting you to go for more high sugar foods and the cycle begins again.

Cooking has become trendy again, and it certainly has an important role for your mental health - not only is it getting you to eat healthier, it is also therapeutic, giving you a task to focus on and produce something at the end of it. Eat what you want and freeze the remainder for during the week .

Exercise and diet are two crucial components to your basic mental well-being. Your phone is another. Phones are no longer mere communications devices. They have become your best friend, your newspaper, your camera, your weatherman and also something that can change your mood instantly. Our social media platforms are also playing havoc with your mood - if you don't get enough likes; if you can't relate to another user's blogger's 'perfect' lifestyle . Many of these will have a seriously negative impact on your mood.

We should all dictate a certain amount of time each day to being phone-free, by starting in small increments and building them up as you build up your phone-free tolerence. You will be amazed at the difference in your mood.

Of course if you're feeling low even having made some positive lifestyle changes, it's important to let someone know, be it a professional or a friend. But I encourage everyone to take my seven-day challenge, rate your mood each day out of 10, and try to add in some of the elements above - just wait and see what happens to your score.

Irish Independent

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