I can’t count the number of times I have heard ‘Run Forrest Run’ when I’ve been out on my daily run. I always have a little chuckle as I love not only the physical health benefits running brings but also the positive effect on my mental health. We all experience stress daily but excessive stress can manifest itself into mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. With October 11 being Headspace day, an initiative of the National Mental Health Foundation it’s a great time to explore the physical impact of mental health issues and how we can harness physical activity as part of a management plan.
It’s common in a physiotherapy clinic to see clients with aches and pains that are exacerbated by increased stress levels and more significant mental health issues. Increased muscular tension is a typical response to stress and can result in neck and back pain, headaches, jaw pain from clenching teeth, and generalised aching and fatigue. While the causes of stress can be out of your control, recognising patterns of increased muscular tension is a great start to feeling physically better. Regular practise of relaxation exercises can assist in reducing pain and ultimately breaking the physical response to stress.
Feeling sad and unhappy can often result in slumped postures. Poor posture can add stress to our spinal joints and also increase spinal pain. Again by having awareness of this can allow you to adopt more comfortable postures and avoid the development of musculoskeletal pain.
There is a correlation of reduced physical activity and poor mental health. Those suffering mental health issues often struggle to find the motivation to exercise and be active. The British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010 reported that sedentary behaviour and mental health issues are strongly linked. However exercise has been shown in adolescents and young people to improve self-esteem and assist in managing anxiety and depression.
A simple walk daily can be beneficial to mental health. For some more vigorous activity such as some sports can produce even greater effects on mood. Finding something you like to participate in is not always easy but start off with small amounts of exercise such as a walk around the block to get into the habit. Getting outside also assist with mood as lack of exposure to natural light can also result in low mood levels.
So next time you yell out ‘run Forrest run’ to someone pounding the pavements, they may just be having a mental health therapy session. Yelling out ‘good job Forrest’ may just help them keep going.