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Mind in Motion: How Exercise Empowers Mental Health

May 14, 2024

An unfortunate consequence of today’s society is that the world is now designed to encourage you to sit down as much as possible, which is beginning to wreak havoc on our mental wellbeing.

Some researchers have even identified sitting as the modern-day smoking, claiming it’s just as bad for your body and, as a result, your mind. This has been especially prevalent since COVID-19 struck the globe, which shifted our day-to-day working life and introduced a new working from home policy.

Desk-based workers are often still confined to their homes, and what was once a daily 30-minute walk to the workplace, became a 5-step shuffle to their desk at home, followed by 8 hours of staring at a computer screen, then a 5-step shuffle to the couch. Our bodies were not designed to sit, and yet that is what we spend most of our time doing.


What are the benefits of exercise?

But how can moving, and not sitting, improve more than just your posture?

Firstly, it’s important to know that you won’t see success over night. It may take time for you to see the benefits, but as is the way with all things good, it’s worth the wait (and the effort).

As exercise triggers the release of endorphins, brain-chemicals that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators, it is known that physical activity can significantly reduce stress levels and encourage feelings of happiness and relaxation.

In particular, mindful movements such as Yoga and Pilates are perfect stress-reducers, as you are actively encouraged to look inward and release any unnecessary mental baggage from your day. As a result of this, you’ll be better equipped to handle work-related stress and high-pressure situations, with a new-found ability to remain calm and practical.

Exercise is also a great way to improve low moods and regulate your emotions, with regular physical activity being proven to alleviate some symptoms of depression and anxiety through the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. And so, where you might usually drag your way through a painful day of work, feeding your brain with a combination of happy hormones like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, you’ll get a new perspective and ability to seize the day and thrive.



Following on from this, another great way that physical activity improves your mental wellbeing is through improved cognitive function. Regular exercise can enhance your memory-retention and ability to focus, with the additional benefit of getting a better night’s sleep, which we all know plays a huge part in our daily productivity and concentration, as it allows the brain to recharge and process emotions more effectively.

Through regular movement and the resulting benefits, your daytime alertness will be much improved and thus, you will be better equipped to stay on task, make informed decisions and effectively handle unexpected problems and high-pressure situations. Most importantly, you’ll feel much happier doing so!

Adding regular physical activity to your daily routine can seriously boost your mental game, from lifting your mood and dialling down stress to sharpening your thinking, improving your sleep, pumping up your confidence, and even boosting your social life.


What can you do this Mental Health Awareness week?

Use this Mental Health Awareness week to speak to your managers and leaders about incorporating a culture of health and wellbeing in the workplace, with a focus on physical activity – this can be done in various ways, such as walking meetings and company-wide movement challenges. By fostering a workplace environment that promotes individual wellbeing, the business itself can only benefit through higher success rates, employee happiness and overall company morale.

Our Be Well corporate step challenges can help to get teams moving this mental health awareness month – find out more here.