It’s time to talk about mental health. I’ll go first.
I’m a personal trainer, and I spend most of my time coaching other people on how to be mentally and physically healthy, but it took me a long time to get here.
I want to share a little about my journey into the fitness industry, as we often hear a lot about the physical side of things, but less about the psychological impact of physical activity and sport.
Around six years ago now, I was experiencing a bit of a mental health crisis myself. I was juggling a Masters, trying to find work, and dealing with a stressful home situation that involved a very unwell parent.
It all got too much, and I was totally overwhelmed. I had no idea what it was at the time, but I started living with chronic anxiety. I had irrational thoughts, a racing mind, and this constant sensation of fear or dread. I didn’t understand it at all really, so I reached out for guidance and found someone who did.
I ended up having therapy, which totally transformed the situation for me and helped me handle it. Not only that, but I Googled “how to help anxiety” and I remember reading an article about the positive affects of exercise. I wasn’t working at the time, so I thought I’d give it a go and head to the gym as I had nothing else to focus on. I’d only been to the gym once before, so when I got there I headed straight to the running machine because it was the only thing I recognised!
I didn’t realise it at the time, but that gym visit would change my life. I remember walking out of there and feeling elated – suddenly everything seemed brighter, my mind cleared, and I felt on top of the world. Of course, now I know what was actually happening; there was a cocktail of hormones swimming around my brain. These hormones are called endorphins, and they are responsible for triggering that positive feeling that was pulsing through my veins that day.
I experienced first-hand the power of exercise for mental health, and it’s been a bit of a personal mission of mine to help spread the word.
This year I’m honoured to be on the Board of Trustees at CIMSPA, who are doing lots of fantastic work to support those working in the sector and beyond with their mental health.
CIMSPA recently hosted a collaborative webinar with MIND, who delivered a talk on ‘Supporting people with mental health problems be more active’. The seminar revealed some sobering statistics:
• 1 in 4 adults have a mental health problem
• Only 1 in 8 adults with a mental health problem are currently getting any kind of treatment
• 1 in 6 children and young people have a mental health problem
It looks stark, but the good news? Physical activity is free, it’s effective, and you only need to do it for 30 minutes a day to feel the benefits. MIND provided lots of fantastic free resources, and they’ve shared a simple guide to activity and mental health here. It contains some simple ideas for getting active and also helps outline how to understand if your relationship with physical activity is healthy.
CIMSPA has also partnered with Workplace Mental Health to help understand the current state of affairs in the fitness sector. They are currently running a survey to understand how people that work in the sector are coping with COVID and how they are looking after their mental health. This ongoing communication is fundamental not only with regards to workplaces and wider society, but also within interpersonal relationships.
The only way we know what our peers are going through is if we ask and we share. So, when was the last time you asked your loved ones how they’re feeling? It might be worth reaching out and checking in every now and again, and you’ll be surprised at how much people open up to you.