Why is keeping active so important, no matter what our age?
It’s because keeping active is not just essential for our physical health and wellbeing; but it also has a positive impact on our psychological health.
Studies have indicated that there is a relationship between inactivity and poor mental health. People with psychological problems are more likely to be inactive or low in physical activity, than those without psychological issues.
Studies have also found that there is an increased risk of becoming inactive among those individuals experiencing poor mental health, significant life transitions or loneliness.
With 45% of adults experiencing anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders at some point in their life; and with mental health the leading cause of disability burden in Australia – what a difference it could make if we are all keeping active!
By keeping active, we gain so many benefits to our psychological, not just our physical, health, such as:
- changes in brain neurotransmitters (elevated endorphins, elevated mood, decrease in pain);
- positive affect;
- increases in self esteem;
- subjective wellbeing;
- increased confidence;
- increased resilience;
- life satisfaction;
- quality of life;
- sleep duration;
- enhanced social interactions (attachment, belonging, networking).
Keeping Active for Better Mental Health
Exercise can be a useful tool for psychologists to use to promote these positive outcomes in patients. Additionally, psychologists can assist with behavioural counselling techniques. This may involve the following steps:
- Assess: A discussion with the client regarding their knowledge of physical activity and what they believe are the benefits, will determine how to move forward. The individual’s current behaviours are assessed to determine the frequency, intensity, time and type of activity they are engaging in. How they feel about the change and their attitude toward it will be assessed to identify what stage they may be at, in order to move toward the change. Assessment can be done during the session with psychological questionnaires and screening tests.
- Advise: Specific information is provided to the client on the benefits and need for change. Clear advice is provided on the importance of physical activity.
- Agree: An action plan is made in collaboration between psychologist and client, to suit the client’s lifestyle. Preferences for the client’s exercise regime can be discussed including supervised or unsupervised exercise, fixed time and same sex environment.
- Assist: The psychologist will provide understanding, acknowledgment and reinforcement to help guide the client, as well as strategies for when obstacles and barriers appear. Problem solving will help the individual to move through the barriers, including social support options. Psychological approaches that may be used at this step are motivational interviewing, self monitoring, planning, and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
- Arrange: The client’s progress is followed up, including additional support by other health professionals discussed if required.
Author: Cassandra Gist.