Exercising to Improve Men’s Mental Health

Exercising to Improve Men’s Mental Health

Currently on average, seven out of every nine suicides each day in Australia are men.

This tragic statistic can be attributed to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety which increase a man’s risk of self harm or suicide. The current statistics in Australia show that one in eight men will experience depression, and one in five will experience anxiety at some stage in their lives.

These men are our brothers, fathers, sons, husbands, partners and mates and we all need to do our bit to look out for them. We can do this through education, increasing our awareness of men’s mental health issues, and gaining greater knowledge of the tools and resources that can help these men.

Remember: when experiencing a crisis:

 

THE BIG ISSUE:

The Australian culture of toughness and stoicism surrounding men speaking up about their feelings needs to change. Boys and men of all ages need to feel comfortable about speaking to someone when they are not feeling 100% so that the issues can be unpacked before it becomes a greater issue.

Warning signs of poor mental health may include:

    • Feeling sad or down
    • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
    • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
    • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
    • Withdrawal from friends and activities
    • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
    • Problems with alcohol or drug use
    • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
    • Suicidal thinking

 

However, not only is it important to recognise the symptoms and signs within us, but also to do our part to check in on those close to us.

Utilising resources made available through organisations such as Beyond Blue can be useful in knowing what to say to our male loved ones and colleagues, as well as making those aware that help is available from places like Lifeline and other medical allied health professionals like general practitioners and psychologists.

It’s important to make sure that the men in our lives know there is no shame in speaking up and getting help.

THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE:

Exercise has been shown to be another helpful tool in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and depression, in addition to other mental health conditions.

Exercise interventions also have lasting effects on those living with these conditions with research demonstrating that patients with symptoms of depression, on follow-up after an exercise intervention, showed long-term improvements in their mental health.

Exercise can also be used as a great tool to start those tough but important conversations with your mates about their mental health and how they’re doing. Whether it’s a kick of the football, a game of cricket in the park, a hike or an afternoon run, exercise and sport can give you a chance to have a chat in a relaxed environment.

TYPES OF EXERCISE RECOMMENDED:

Research has shown that those who are more physically active will have reduced incidence and severity of symptoms of depression, so the most important thing to do is to start.

To get started, it’s recommended to do the form of exercise you enjoy the most, whether this be aerobic exercise in the form of walking, cycling, running or swimming, or resistance exercise including bodyweight or weight training. The outcomes for aerobic and resistance exercise to alleviate mental health symptoms are similar, so do what you enjoy!

Once you get going, the goal is to build the amount of physical activity you complete over time to reach the physical activity guidelines, which recommend to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, including muscular strengthening activities on at least two days per week.

This will ensure you not only improve your mental health but improve other aspects of your health and reduce your overall disease risk.

CHECK OUT OUR MEN’S HEALTH EBOOK:

This latest eBook by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has been designed to encourage Australian men to become more active for their physical and mental health. It also covers the benefits of exercise for a wide range of common conditions adult men may encounter.

 

SPEAK TO THE EXERCISE PROFESSIONALS:

This is all easier said than done when you’re experiencing poor mental health which can lead to a lack of motivation, reduced interest in activities, and trouble concentrating. So, once you have started, how do you stay on board? How do you continue to improve? How do you know what to do?

This is where an accredited exercise professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Scientist or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, can help. An accredited exercise professional is qualified to prescribe you a tailored exercise program that considers your current mental health state and existing medical history (this may include old or current injuries, any medication you take as well as your exercise likes and dislikes).

If you haven’t started undertaking some physical activity or completing an exercise program, now is a great time to start! Reach out to an accredited exercise professional for some extra support to help you get the best possible results, long term!

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Written by Mitchell Vautin, Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Exercise Healthcare Australia

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