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How to improve your mental health with exercise

Alan_0.JPGAs part of MS Awareness Week, MS-UK Wellness Coach Alan Pearson discusses the importance of exercise for mental health and how to get started.

With MS awareness week upon us it is right that we highlight the profound physical and mental effect a condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) can have on individuals, partners, carers and family members, especially at this time of lockdown. So it is important that we talk about exercise and mental health.

What is it?

So what is our mental health? Well, it's our state of mind that includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we feel, think and function. Whether you want to get up today or not, join in that social group, take part in an exercise programme, do your daily activities like washing, tidying, gardening, and personal care. Of course, this is all unique to the individual and we are always on a scale of mental health each day as events, situations and circumstances unfold.

We may not feel that we are physically able to due to fatigue, stability, balance and coordination issues, weakness in our limbs or trunk, sensory issues or a combination of these - it all has an effect on our confidence and state of mind.

Holistic approach

Physical activity is an important and crucial part of the journey with MS, along with dietary and lifestyle habits, as well as sleep. Exercise helps improve and maintain our cardiovascular function, strengthens muscles, keeps ranges of motion in our joints, improves bone density, increases energy, and slows cognitive decline. All this has an effect on improving mood, reducing stress, lifting our self-esteem and reducing anxiety and depression.

It is also important that we keep moving and stay vascularly well to reduce any chance of getting secondary medical conditions associated with a more sedentary lifestyle, whether you have a long term condition or not.

Get started

This is all well and good to read, but we are not all ‘get up and goers’ so, where do we start? First of all is having an idea of what you would like to do, or setting a task or challenge. You need a purpose to do something! Maybe at the beginning of the week, sit down and work out a schedule of what you are going to do that week. It will help as we all tend to work to appointments. So set an appointment with yourself to do some activity or exercise. It works, trust me!

Some people may need additional support to facilitate an action, or it might be that you are not in the right mental space yet. MS-UK is always here for you with our free helpline on 0800 783 0518 and you can access our counselling service here.

Check out our online exercise classes on our YouTube channel here.

Finally, enjoy whatever you do and be around positive people. Exercise is a powerful medicine and can bring many benefits which will improve your quality of life and give you social and physical wellbeing. Stay safe stay well and I will see you at my next MS-UK online exercise class.

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