Mental Health Awareness Week last week had a lot of us thinking about how we manage our wellbeing.
As athletes, we come under high amounts of stress and pressure as we juggle sport with other areas of our lives, and sometimes that stress can take its toll on all of us.
Thankfully, we do have the comfort of knowing one of the strongest ways we can support our mental health - getting frequent exercise - will never be a problem for us. And having high levels of physical fitness has a number of mental benefits.
To help you take stock of how your training is influencing your mind, here are four ways being fit improves your mental health.
Supports Brain Health
Exercise is one of the best ways to combat depression, partly because it changes neural pathways in your brain.
It promotes neural growth, reduces inflammation and helps develop new activity patterns that increase feelings of calm and wellbeing.
The regular endorphin rushes also make you feel more energized and happier after a workout.
Athletes enjoy all these benefits, which means their brains become wired in a way to help them feel better more of the time.
Exercise is often prescribed as a treatment for anxiety because it can relieve stress and tension.
Athletes get these benefits ingrained in their daily routine, enabling them to release any built-up distress or frustration on a regular basis.
Concentrating on an activity also helps take focus away from thoughts or problems, enabling the brain to zone out.
Being in good shape and feeling fit helps boost your confidence by improving your body image.
Self-esteem has a big influence on mental health and getting yourself in great shape is an obvious way to improve it.
If you feel more confident in your own skin, you’re more likely to be more relaxed and able to feel at ease and express yourself.
Stay Active For Longer
The ability to get the most out of our bodies in everyday life, whether it’s keeping up the kids in the garden or feeling fresh after walking up six flights of stairs, should never be underestimated.
If you’re unfit, simple activities can be very draining. But people who exercise regularly can get the most out of their bodies.
Lack of physical mobility can also be a big cause of depression in old age, but by staying healthy and giving yourself the best chance to maintain high activity levels for as long as possible, you’re setting yourself up to be happier for longer.