How Does a Healthy Body Help to Achieve a Healthy Mind?
What does “being healthy” actually mean? With so many mixed messages alongside ever-changing diet and fitness fads, it can be hard to know where to start. Having worked with clients of various ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities over the past few years, I'm a firm believer in finding what works for you and staying consistent; we are all different, but one mantra that rings true for us all is that what we do with and put into our bodies can have a powerful impact on our mental well-being. With that in mind let us explore how a healthy body can help you to achieve a healthy mind:
The effects of exercise on your mental health
Regular exercise will transform how you feel about yourself. Any form of activity triggers the production of dopamine and endorphins, the body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals. I witness this first-hand with my clients who often remark that they leave a training session feeling like a different person. And it's the ongoing sense of well-being that they enjoy the most; they feel good about themselves, more energised and are keen to come back for more! Their sleep improves and in turn they feel less stressed, better able to focus on work and their productivity levels soar.
Food for a healthy mind
Eating well is also vital, not only to fuel your activity but also because your brain needs a balanced diet to function. We all know about the effects of a poor diet on our physical health, but research also points to the role food plays on our short and long-term mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, a balanced diet can help manage and prevent various mental health disorders such as depression and Alzheimer's disease.
The lockdown effect
The past 12 months have presented challenges that even the strongest-minded amongst us will have struggled to overcome. We've been mentally pushed to our limits, forced to adapt our ways of life that have thrown healthy habits and good intentions out the window. Motivation is at an all-time low. So, what can you do to break the vicious cycle and take back control in this new normal? First and foremost, you need to realise that your physical and mental health is in your hands and the responsibility lies with you to do something about it. There are many resources out there to help you address all aspects of your health and wellness.
Here are a few tips to break the cycle:
- Make small, sustainable changes to begin with.
- Move a little more. Break up your day where you can with a walk, some yoga or an online workout you can follow at home - anything you feel comfortable with.
- Eat a little better. Start by cutting back on processed junk and refined sugar and increase your fresh fruit and vegetable intake. Ensure you include a good balance of starchy carbohydrates, protein, fibre, and healthy fats. The Eatwell Guide is a good reference point. Be a bit more mindful about what you eat in general so you can afford to treat yourself if you want to.
- Never let yourself go hungry. Always eat breakfast; if you find yourself reaching for the biscuits between meals, try eating smaller portions more regularly rather than a large lunch and dinner. Choose foods that release energy slowly to keep your blood sugar levels stable and keep healthy snacks at hand.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and try to cut down on alcohol and caffeine – these can exacerbate mental health issues and prove detrimental to your “feel good” efforts.
- Don't beat yourself up if you have an off-day or week, or if you've overindulged – it doesn't matter. Take control, keep up your regular activity and be more conscious of what you eat and drink tomorrow.
If you take only a couple of the above points on board and move towards a healthier lifestyle, you'll be amazed at the change in your state of mind. General well-being takes discipline; it means putting in the work to do the little things that can make a big difference to how you feel and how you operate from day to day. Stay consistent and your body and mind will both reap the rewards.
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Eleanor is a Level 3-qualified personal trainer who works with clients of all ages and levels of fitness. Her tailored programmes incorporate a mixture of low/high intensity interval training plus resistance work and she is qualified to advise on nutrition to compliment this. She is also a single mum to a 5-year-old boy so recognises the challenges of balancing a busy schedule with a healthy lifestyle.
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