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By Kasha Bedford Principal Educational and Developmental Psychologist

It probably comes as no surprise that regular aerobic physical activity, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.

There are many health benefits of regular exercise which include:

  1. Improved sleep
  2. Better endurance
  3. Stress relief
  4. Improvement in mood
  5. Increased energy and stamina
  6. Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
  7. Weight reduction
  8. Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness
  9. Increased concentration and attention

Why does exercise make us feel better?

You’ve probably heard that exercise helps your body increases endorphins or “feel good hormones”, but it also increases many more brain chemicals that make you feel happy. When you exercise, your brain increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid — these are all brain chemicals associated with feeling happy, feeling confident, feeling capable, feeling less anxiety and stress and even less physical pain.

How much exercise do I need to engage in?

As little as thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk, is sufficient for health benefits. 30 minutes need not to be continuous; three 10-minute walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk. There are however physical activity guidelines for age ranges as outlined below:

Pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years) should spend at least 180 minutes a day in a variety of physical activities, of which 60 minutes is energetic play such as running, jumping and kicking and throwing, spread throughout the day – noting more is better.

For optimal health benefits, children and young people (aged 5–17 years) should achieve the recommended balance of low, moderate and high levels and of physical activity accumulating 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day involving mainly aerobic activities In addition, several hours of a variety of light physical activities; and activities that are vigorous, as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone should be incorporated at least 3 days per week.

Adults 18-65 years for optimal health benefits should be accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. Adults should be active on most, preferably all, days every week. They should be engaging in muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week. Engaging in some form of physical activity is far better than none.

How to be more active every day?

  • Make exercise part of your everyday routine and your child’s
  • Try walking or cycling instead of using the car.
  • Get off a tram, train or bus a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Or spend some time walking your kids to school.
  • Get active around the house by doing some gardening, washing the car or cleaning the windows.
  • Choose an activity you like, or have enjoyed in the past
  • Build up your activity levels gradually
  • See your GP or an accredited exercise physiologist before you start, and regularly, as you continue your exercise plan
  • Write your plan in your diary or on your calendar, so it’s part of your schedule.
  • Exercise with a friend
  • Monitor you progress and track how you feel after exercise
  • Exercise with your kids or other family members
  • Find an exercise class or group of like-minded people

Psychologists can provide effective, evidence-based interventions and supports to help promote increased physical activity and supports for individuals suffering from mental health issues. If you would like support in this please give the Solutions In Mind team a call. Alternatively Solutions In Mind run Movement and Mindfulness groups for children. Please give our office a call to register your interest.