Why do you work out?
I expect that one of your top answers is that you exercise to lose weight, tone up or look a certain way. But there’s another very important reason to be active – and by active I don’t just mean running miles and miles or lifting weights, in fact going for a walk and practicing yoga are great as well. The reason is that exercise is good for your mental health!
Does exercise help your mental health?
I recently wrote an article for Boom Boom Athletica explaining how exercise and physical activity can enhance your mental health. Evidence suggests that being active (e.g. walking, running, cycling, lifting weights, hiit, yoga) can help to
- improve your mood
- reduce stress/ anxiety
- boost your brain power (or cognitive functioning)
- improve sleep
- help you feel more energised
- improve your overall wellbeing
Check out the blog post for more details and links to the journal papers that informed the article (<- I’m all about evidence based science and psychology!).
Get Fit Get Happy : Book Review
While we’re on the topic of exercise and mental health I wanted to introduce you to the book Get Fit Get Happy by Harry Judd (who you may recognise as the drummer from McFly or from Strictly Come Dancing).
In the summer I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview event to hear about Harry’s philosophy for exercise and to try out some of the workouts in the book. I really enjoyed the event; it was nice to meet other bloggers interested in health / fitness and I came away with lots of positive energy. I read Get Fit Get Happy as soon as I received a copy, but then I got busy with my PhD work and never wrote a blog post about it!!
Get Fit Get Happy is different from other exercise books or programs that I have read/ followed and I think that’s a good thing.
First off, the core message of the book is that exercise can help you feel great and you don’t need to be killing yourself in the gym to feel the benefits. It takes a positive ‘do what you can’ approach. Many fitness books or programs tend to focus on weight loss or shaping muscles and promote a ‘go hard or go home’ / ‘no pain no gain’ attitude, which I feel is unrealistic, unsustainable and potentially dangerous. Also, there are no photos of men and women in skimpy fitness gear in the book! I’m so pleased that Harry hasn’t undermined the message of the book by using fitness models and focusing on abs in the photos for Get Fit Get Happy.
I totally endorse Harry’s message that physical activity can help you to feel great and not just look great. I think that with the rise of social media and popular hashtags such as #fitspo, we can feel pressure to look a certain way. Then once you step into the fitness world, you can start to feel like if you haven’t done back to back classes or worked out until you want to puke then you haven’t trained hard enough. But honestly there is no corrrelation between your weight or the definition of your abs and your happiness – trust me I’ve been the girl who pushed myself to workout twice a day for my #bikinibody and because I was scared of being fat if I didn’t exercise. I feel that chasing an ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ body is unachievable and it’s easy to keep raising the bar for yourself until you get so caught up in it that your quest for health becomes unhealthy; your physical and mental health begin to suffer. Sustainable exercise and compassion towards yourself is so important and I think that Harry captures this well in the book.
Secondly, I like that Harry’s inspiration for the book is based on his own personal journey but he has consulted with experts to explain his experiences and provide an evidence base for the recommendations in Get Fit Get Happy. At the beginning of the book, Harry reveals that his life in McFly wasn’t the dream it often came across as, and that he struggled with using drugs and alcohol to control his anxiety and OCD. He then goes on to explain how exercise played a role in his recovery and how it is important in his life now. There are also lots of interesting facts about exercise and it’s effects on our health and wellbeing.
Finally, I like that the workouts in the book require no equipment or that you can use things that you find in your home or in the park. I’m on board with all of the workouts apart from the one that suggests doing a squat jump on your bed… I don’t want a broken bed or ankle (if I fall off), so I will be avoiding that workout!
The exercises are designed to be fun, with different workouts for all levels of fitness. There are also options to do a quick workout or to extend it into a longer session. Harry has even created a 3- minute workout to the song ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams! We did the workout during the event and I was laughing the whole time.
I love that Get Fit Get Happy takes exercise back to basics and makes it accessible for everyone. With the rise of boutique gyms and pop-up fitness studios I worry that exercise is becoming elitist. I also feel that if you spend long enough on instagram, it seems that to keep fit you need to attend £10+ hiit classes, hot yoga sessions or get a personal trainer. It’s no longer good enough to put on your trainers and go out for a run. Don’t get me wrong, I love trying weird and wonderful exercise moves in a class and I went to hot yoga last week. But I’m not made of money (to pay the class fees) and sometimes when I feel busy or stressed, I have no inclination to find the time or motivation to exercise. Get Fit Get Happy does a brilliant job of reminding us that any movement is great for our body and our mind.
I would like to conclude by encouraging you to think about your relationship with exercise and how it makes you feel.
Let me know your views in the comments.