10 ways being active can improve our mental wellbeing

Posted: 17th Sep



We are all guilty of just focusing on how exercise affects our bodies, from toned tummies and muscular arms to pushing ourselves to our physical limits.

But, it’s so important to remember that many benefits of getting fit and keeping active are invisible, and lots of them can give us an enormous feeling of satisfaction, wellbeing and even improve our mental health.

SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) are one of this year’s exhibitors at SFN and their team will be sharing how exercise can impact and improve our mental wellbeing.

According to SAMH, research suggests the less physical activity a person does, the more likely they are to experience low mood, depression, tension and worry. 

Robert Nesbitt, Head of Physical Activity and Sport at SAMH, said: “Often when it comes to sports, we think of the benefits to our physical health but we all have to look after our mental health too and exercise plays a huge part.”

Here are 10 benefits for everyone to keep in mind…

1. Improves mood

Ever feel much cheerier after a swim, or a good session in the gym? That’s because exercise releases hormones or ‘endorphins’ that make us feel good. This is often referred to as ‘runner’s high’, but any form of exercise can have this effect on us and boost our mood. It can also help with concentration and make us feel more motivated throughout the day.

2. Sleep patterns

According to The National Sleep Foundation, regular exercise can help us get better quality sleep at night but also help us sleep for longer and wake up in the morning feeling more refreshed. Regular exercise outdoors such as walking, cycling and running exposes our bodies to natural light and adjusts our internal clock so we know when to sleep and when to wake up.

 3.Stress management

There are loads of symptoms of stress that can affect us throughout our lives, from feeling agitated and moody, to developing low self-esteem and loneliness. 

Exercising can be a distraction from the irritations and stresses happening throughout the day, and help us to cope with the inevitable ups and down that happen in life. It can give us a sense of power and command over our bodies, which in turn corresponds to how we feel towards our situations.

4. Creates opportunities to feel part of something

Joining a sports team and working towards a common goal, or developing a passion and interest in something that we can share with others, gives us an enormous sense of satisfaction and allows us to feel part of something. This in turn is amazing for our sense of wellbeing, self-worth and creates opportunities to build relationships out -with our usual circles.

5. Increases self-esteem

Exercise makes us challenge ourselves and no matter how small, it’s about setting ourselves personal goals and overcoming them. Whether it’s walking to the shop instead of driving or completing a marathon, by striving to achieve and reach these hurdles, our self-esteem grows and develops.

6.Connection with others

There are so many social benefits of keeping active. Getting involved in sports and interacting with other people helps us foster a sense of camaraderie, making us feel good and close to those around us. This in turn releases those feel good hormones and improves our sense of wellbeing.


7. Breaks down barriers

Getting active and involved in sports can break down barriers in society and bring together people from all walks of life. Local park runs create a sense of community and sports clubs allow members to connect regardless of things like age, race, gender and sexuality.

8. Greater confidence

Exercise can make us feel more confident about ourselves. From learning new skills, improving our physical health and getting fitter, this means we believe in ourselves more and in turn this confidence can filter through into other areas of our lives, from professional to personal.

9. Manage symptoms

Exercising can help us manage and reduce some symptoms associated with mental illnesses such as mild depression and anxiety. That’s not to say exercise is a quick fix for mental illness and should never replace treatment, but it can enhance the lives of sufferers and make situations feel more manageable.

10. Reduce isolation

Loneliness and feeling isolated from the rest of the world can be detrimental to our wellbeing. Having the chance to chat with others, make friends and just being aware of feeling makes us human and sport is a brilliant way to do this. Group classes and team sports are an ideal way to make friends, give us a sense of purpose and make us feel valued in the community.

SAMH will be at SFN this year for the whole weekend in the newly-added Well-being Zone to share the positive effects of physical activity on mental health. Scottish Sports Futures will also be there to help facilitate this zone, sharing their message that the power of sport can encourage young people to make positive lifestyle choices.

So come along, say hello and hear about all the amazing things these organisations are doing in Scotland. They are working hard to break down barriers and make sure everyone has the opportunity to engage in exercise throughout every stage of their lives.


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