Active body, peaceful mind

Ilia Lindsay
7/4/2022
2022/03/24

We all know that being active is good for our body and physical health, but did you know that an active body creates a peaceful mind?

Yes! There is increasing research into the relationship between physical activity and improved wellbeing and mental health. Research shows us that regular physical activity can improve mood, decrease anxiety and stress, help with sleep patterns and can also create a layer of resilience against mental health difficulties such as depression (Biddle, Ciaccioni, Thomas & Vergeer, 2019).

At a very basic level, physical activity means moving any part of your body that activates your muscles and expends energy. When you think of it like this, there are endless possibilities of what we can do to be active. However, physical activity is so much more than aerobic conditioning and muscle strengthening. People who exercise regularly do so because of the considerable impact on their wellbeing. When we engage in physical activity we feel more energetic during the day and mentally focussed, we experience improved memory and recall, enhanced flexibility in thinking and are able to engage in relaxation more easily (Biddle et al., 2019).

More specifically for our students, research shows us that for children and adolescents there is evidence that physical activity supports students to build autonomy, competence and connectedness to others which in turn builds wellbeing resilience (Biddle et al., 2019, Dore et a., 2020).

So, how does this work?

Researchers suggests that physical exercise supports wellbeing and mental health by providing us with an activity that facilitates social interaction, self-efficacy and achievement and distraction, regardless of our age (Marconin et al., 2022, Sharma, 2019). On a physiological level, research tells us that any type of physical activity triggers chemical reactions in the brain which is why we experience so many psychological benefits. Specifically:

  • Firstly, any type of physical activity will produce endorphins - commonly known as the “hormones of happiness” (Sharifi, Hamedinia, & Hosseini-Kakhak, 2018).
  • Secondly, regular exercise decreases our “stress hormone” cortisol which is why stress reduction and sleep improvement is often experienced (Sharma, 2019).
  • Lastly, one of the neuro-chemicals that regulates our mood called norepinephrine is stimulated through physical activity.

The benefits are endless.

       

So, what do we need to do?

There appears to be consensus in the recommendation across many government health services (from the United Kingdom, to Australia and New Zealand) that children and teenagers should aim to do at least one hour of exercise spread over each day. It is also repeatedly referenced across the globe that we need to be mindful of how long we remain seated and sedentary and should look to limit this to no more than two hours at a time where possible.

Sometimes it can be hard to get started or find the motivation to get active. Here are three of our top tips for enjoying physical activity.

  1. Choose something you like! Think of what activities you enjoy and bring you happiness. You might prefer to be active alone or with friends, you may enjoy structured exercise or time outside.
  2. Create a positive environment. Think of what you can add to your activity, do you like music? Do you like to be outside? Can you call a friend for a catch up whilst being active?
  3. Break it up. The good news is, we don’t need to do our recommended 30minutes all at once this can be something that is spread over the day. Can you add a walk at the start and end of your day?

Need ideas?

We asked the team at Komodo how they like to move their bodies and create peace in their mind.

  • Walking pets
  • Hiking in beautiful scenery
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Yoga or pilates
  • Team sports
  • Using YouTube for workouts

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References:

  • Biddle, S. J., Ciaccioni, S., Thomas, G., & Vergeer, I. (2019). Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents: An updated review of reviews and an analysis of causality. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 42, 146-155.
  • Biddle, S. (2016). Physical activity and mental health: evidence is growing. World Psychiatry, 15(2), 176.
  • Doré, I., Sylvester, B., Sabiston, C., Sylvestre, M. P., O’Loughlin, J., Brunet, J., & Bélanger, M. (2020). Mechanisms underpinning the association between physical activity and mental health in adolescence: a 6-year study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17(1), 1-9.
  • Marconcin, P., Werneck, A. O., Peralta, M., Ihle, A., Gouveia, É. R., Ferrari, G., ... & Marques, A. (2022). The association between physical activity and mental health during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 22(1), 1-14.
  • Sharifi, M., Hamedinia, M. R., & Hosseini-Kakhak, S. A. (2018). The effect of an exhaustive aerobic, anaerobic and resistance exercise on serotonin, beta-endorphin and BDnf in students. Physical education of students, (5), 272-277.
  • Sharma, T. (2019). A Study on the Effects of Physical Activity on Mental Health at Various Stages of Life. Think India Journal, 22(13), 1144-1154.
  • Tyson, P., Wilson, K., Crone, D., Brailsford, R., & Laws, K. (2010). Physical activity and mental health in a student population. Journal of mental health, 19(6), 492-499.

Online sources:

  • https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-activity-and-sleep/physical-activity/how-much-activity-recommended
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-getting-every-adult-active-every-day/health-matters-getting-every-adult-active-every-day
  • https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/physical-activity-guidelines-children-and-young-people/
  • https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians/for-children-and-young-people-5-to-17-years