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WINNER 2020
“Inspiration in Health & Fitness”

FEEL GOOD Mentally

What’s a perfect photo?  

Scroll through my Instagram @feelgoodwithlavina and you’ll see how I used to just post natural non-professional pics of me on my fitness journey. I did get a photo shoot done to just mark where I’d got to at a specific point in time – note again, this was not a hardcore transformation pic with weeks of dieting and training, but just a checkpoint in my current lifestyle. But what’s a physical photo or an external image, when we all have troubles, worries & challenges in our lives? Whether they’re to do with work, home, our children, family or friends. No one knows what’s really happening inside your head apart from you.  

I strongly believe that fitness goes hand in hand with benefitting our mental health. Working out for me, is as much about challenging my body as it is a release for my mind. My workouts are “me” time. It’s time to do something for myself, for my body and mind. It’s a stress reliever that’s actually good for me. It’s the opportunity to compete against myself in a constructive way. Everyone has their own personal challenges and stresses- I know exercise helped me escape and feel better when I lost a loved one, through challenges I have raising my family & has helped me refocus and get through tough times.  

Strength/Resistance training (lifting weights) is an important part of wellness as we get older for the obvious continued muscle building – but also for mental health. We progressively lose muscle mass and bone density as we age. Muscle strength keeps us active and strong, plus muscle burns more calories than fat, so it helps keep our weight healthy. I love lifting weights. It “Feels Good” physically & mentally to feel strong.  

Exercise of any kind helps boost our mood by releasing FEEL GOOD endorphins. Strength training in particular has an anti depressant effect which has been studied * 

FEELING GOOD is ADDICTIVE! For me, exercise is not about weight loss, it’s about longevity, independence, mental wellness and living my best life as well as I can for as long as I can.  

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, negative mood & improves self-esteem and cognitive function. It has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as social withdrawal. The benefits of exercise as “transdiagnostic,” meaning that regardless of which mental illness someone may be experiencing, everyone can still gain some benefit from exercise.  

Consistent exercise has been shown to be just as effective as anti-depressant medications for those with major depression.  

Those who are regularly physically active have fewer days when they rate their mental health as “not good” than those who are not physically active. The biggest effects were among those who spent 45 ins exercising 3-5 times per week – everyone benefited irrespective of age, gender, racial group or income. **  

With World Mental Health Day on Thursday 10th October, if anything is getting you down, talk to someone, don’t suffer in silence. Look how much times have changed since I grew up, when if one embarrassingly admitted to having mental health issues it was seen as a sign of weakness, something to be ashamed of, especially in the Asian community. Be strong, confident and open with your feelings – to help end the stigma.  

THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE ON MENTAL HEALTH 

  • Reduced stress levels 
  • Increased energy levels 
  • Reduced depression 
  • Increased mood & well-being 
  • Reduced anxiety 
  • Increased self-esteem & confidence 
  • Improved sleep 
  • Boosts brain power 
  • Releases FEEL GOOD endorphins  

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Just as we can become physically ill, we can become mentally ill. It is equally as real, and just as important to treat. It just takes a little more awareness and understanding. 

Yes, we know exercise is good for your body, it can improve your physical health and physique. But people who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more positive and relaxed about themselves and their lives. It’s such a powerful medicine for many common health challenges.  

No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.  

If you don’t already practice strength training & are intimidated by the idea, start with body weight exercises. Then move up to light weights. Building a habit takes time. It’s important to Progressively overload over time with perfect form & technique. The general recommendation to maintain muscle and for health is to practice strength training two times a week, plus 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity.  

Don’t forget exercise is one of the most under utilised forms of therapy for mental health. So please do yourselves a favour & go workout! Practice self care. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind! 

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Be kind. Always. 

Lots of love & strength to you all. Strong body, strong mind. 🙏 

*Study: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2680311  

**Source: BMJ 2018; 362:k3446