Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May), this year’s focus is on stress. Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this. This blog aims to highlight the causes, the negative effects it can have on the mind and body, and how it can be relieved.
Stress is a word that many of us use when we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or tired. We can all feel it, especially when we have a tough day or busy times.
In fact, did you know one in four of us experience some sort of mental health condition each year? So, the chances are most of us have some experience of mental health issues, whether that’s first hand or through someone we know – a friend, family member or work colleague. It can affect anyone, any age.
Research published by the Black Dog Institute found that physical activity, such as walking and cycling, has a positive impact on our mental (as well as physical) health, helping to alleviate – and even prevent – depression, stress and anxiety.
According to the Mental Health Foundation physical activity can:
- Increase mental alertness – morning exercise wakes up not only your body but your mind, getting you ready for the day ahead
- Increase energy levels
- Promote a positive mood – exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the ‘feel good hormones’
- Improve self-esteem – exercise can make you feel more positive about yourself. As well as seeing yourself becoming fitter, you prove to yourself that you’re up to the challenge of, for example, riding to work and back. It can give you a sense of satisfaction and self-control that helps you withstand stress better
- Reduce your levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’
- And it can help to prevent depression
However …..Often when we are too busy and feeling stressed, the last thing we feel like doing is exercise. But we need to start using physical activity as a method of stress reduction as it’s been proven to be one of the best stress busters that we have to hand.
Cycling – adults
We all know that too much stress isn’t good for us and that stress contributes to high-blood pressure, heart disease and lowered immunity. The truth is that making time to ride your bike when you’re not feeling yourself is most probably the last thing you fancy doing. But like many other forms of exercise, cycling can easily be incorporated into your daily routine, which will make it seem less like a chore and something that is a means of getting to where you need to be, with an added bonus of feeling a little bit brighter by the end of it.
Cycling to work or cycling the school run can help you and your family meet the government’s recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. So all those little trips to school to drop your little ones off, or the commute to the train station or work, are all beneficial and add up as the week goes along.
What are the benefits of cycling?
- Cycling as meditation: The repetitive action of pedaling involved in cycling can help your brain release outside stresses in the same way that meditating on a phrase or a word is used in classical meditation. By focusing on your pedal stroke you can block out other worries and stresses of the day, giving your brain a break from all of your daily problems.
- Keep active, keep a healthy weight – A healthy weight could be different for two people of the same sex, age and height because we all have different bone structures and muscle development. What’s important is that you feel healthy, self-confident and keep your body fat at the right level for you. The best way to maintain a healthy weight is to be active, cycling raises your metabolic rate, which can help to keep weight off. Moderate pedal-pushing burns up to 500 calories per hour, which is more than walking or swimming.
The simplest way to make cycling a habit is to go out and begin. There is advice on how to start cycling to work where you will find great tips on what you need and how to plan you routes.
Mental health problems do not just affect adults, they affect about 1 in 10 children and young people too. The symptoms include depression, anxiety and poor behaviour, and can be a direct response to what is happening in their lives, whether it is family, school work or a social problem, but it can all seem like a huge issue when you are young and not yet learnt how to deal with worries or pressures.
Most children love cycling – it’s fast and fun, and gives them confidence, freedom and independence to get around, the fresh air and excitement of the wind blowing in their hair is a good wake up activity. And you don’t need to wait until your kids are old enough to ride themselves to start enjoying the benefits of cycling as a family.
As with adults children can gain benefits from cycling to school, as it is a great way to encourage children to get active, building confidence, gaining road safety skills and engaging with friends on their way to school. But, it is also a great way to kick start active travel and build up lifelong habits that will improve not only your child’s health but yours too.
Follow this link for tips on how to become a cycling commuter cycling to work
Follow this link for your free guide on how to look after your mental health by using exercise https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise