How physical activity impacts on physical and mental health

Trinity Employment Services' Personal Assistant and qualified Personal Trainer, Emma, shares the impact exercising had on her physical and mental health, and what are the main benefits of regular exercising.

Exercise more for your mental health and wellbing.

Around 5 years ago I started my fitness journey. I had given birth to my second daughter about 5 months prior and I was going through a couple of life events that impacted my mental health, a lot. At the time, a friend of mine had tried for a really long time to get me to go along to a class, and one day I finally said "yes". I found out when I got there that it was a CrossFit class and I really didn’t know what I was in for. I had never heard of CrossFit before, so I was very nervous. I struggle with social anxiety so meeting new people was hard enough. But doing a workout I have never done before in front of all those people felt traumatising. As I walked in, the welcome from everyone was so warming and the coach, who little did I know was about to change my life, was so supportive and motivational that it made me want to keep going.

After that workout, I was so exhausted that you would think I would have run for the hills and never come back. But looking at those strong and fit people who had worked so hard to get to where they were, I felt inspired. So I started going to that class 3 times a week, and later worked my way up to 5. About 6 months down the track, I met goals that I never thought I would meet and I had a comment from a friend saying “you have been doing really well lately”. It was when I realised how much the classes and the physical activity had completely changed my mental health. I was focusing more on myself and unlocked a passion and a competitive side I never knew that I had.

Around 2 years later my coach asked me if I have ever thought about becoming a coach or a personal trainer and I felt like something sparked inside me. The following year completed a personal training course with NZIHF and it was amazing to learn the links between not just mental health but how much exercise helps with overall health.

Exercise is proven to strengthen your heart and lungs, lower blood pressure, increase your energy levels, improves muscle tone and strength, and strengthens your bones

- which is so important especially when you start to age. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety, and reduces the rate of bone loss - which is also why it’s important to know that you are never too old to exercise. Having a good strength and conditioning programme with proper technique can help reduce bone fractures and falls as you begin to age.

When you work out, whether it be lifting heavy weights or going for a run, your body releases serotonin and endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in your body.

Often runners refer to having a runners high after their workout and that is due to the endorphins that are released while running. These chemicals are proven to improve the mood and help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation. Exercise pumps blood to the brain, which can help you to think more clearly. It also improves your memory by increasing the connections between the nerve cells in the brain.

I could talk for ages about how your body reacts positively to exercise but I will finish by saying that having a good gym routine has changed my life. I went from being shy, anxious, and unhappy to a more confident and happier version of myself. My mental and physical health have been the best they've ever been after I started exercising regularly. Motivation hasn’t always been there but the discipline has. Motivation comes and goes but getting to the gym and getting things done is always a better feeling then not going at all. So, if you want one tip to improve your overall mental health, it is exercising.

- Emma Murcott, Personal Assistant at Trinity (and Personal Trainer when away from the desk)