Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Long-term mental health benefits of going to the gym

I was sent an interesting article recently about the reason UK men join the gym.

It highlighted research carried out by the health and wellness booking app, ‘Mindbody’, which revealed that out of the 1,148 men surveyed, 64 per-cent joined the gym to increase overall fitness levels, with 35 per-cent joining to build muscle.

Only 25 per-cent said they wanted to join because of mental health reasons and to help increase their confidence.

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When this group was asked what continues to motivate them to keep going to the gym the top three answers were: increase fitness levels, to make healthier choices and to keep on top of their mental health.

With ‘building muscle’ losing its place to ‘keeping on top of mental health’ in the top three reasons why men continue going to the gym, ‘Mindbody’ delved further into men’s attitudes towards their mental wellbeing and found that, on an average day, only 13 per-cent would rate their overall happiness or mental wellbeing at 5/5 (five being content) compared to more than a third (35 per-cent) who would rate it at a mere 3/5.

Furthermore, almost a third (31 per-cent) said they were somewhat anxious or stressed on a daily basis.

It is great to see studies like this conducted as it highlights the importance of physical activity and mental health.

The majority of these men surveyed were probably not aware of the impact that the gym would have on their own mental health and while they went for one reason, they came away with so much more.

It wasn’t until reflection and on being asked the right questions by researchers that this information was harvested and collated, In doing so those behind the survey were able to help lift the stigma of men’s mental health for these gentlemen.

I am grateful that I am now able to speak openly about men’s mental health and my own journey.

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I try and share the tools and methods I used to overcome my own issues, and physical activity plays a huge role in this.

The biggest way physical activity can help with your mental health is doing something you love.

It doesn’t matter if its indoors, outdoors, land or water-based, find the activity you love to do and keep at it.

Even it isn’t the best fitness activity out there, don’t worry, if you have a passion for it and feel good doing it then that is all the rewards you need. Another reason how physical activity can help with your own mental health is by doing something you love consistently.

Joining a team or club where you meet at a certain time every week or have your own routine of gym classes is a brilliant way to keep on top of your mental health.

Even if you had the worst day, but know that you are committed to exercising that evening, after your session you will start to feel the benefits.

I move everyday, even if it’s just my morning stretching routine.

Your session doesn’t have to be over an hour every time you exercise.

In fact breaking it down to 40, 20 or even five minutes everyday means you have a better chance of sticking at it consistently and are drip feeding the body all the benefits of physical activity.

All of this is backed up by science. Whenever we exercise we are topping up and releasing our happy hormones.

The endorphins that the brain releases can have an extremely positive impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.

Not only does exercise improve your physical strength it has an impact on developing your mental strength as well.

Physical activity is just one method which helps improve your overall wellbeing, so don’t get bogged down thinking that you must to it a certain way or for any length of time.

Having a complete ‘wellbeing package’ that includes physical activity is far better than just concentrating on physical activity alone.

So find out what you really love to do and make it enjoyable, then you will reap far more than just the physical benefits of exercise.

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