Tips for Exercise to Improve Mental Health
Mental & Physical Health Issues

Tips for Exercise to Improve Mental Health

Today I am handing over my blog to the lovely Diary of a Detour who is going to talk about who she finds exercise has helped improve her mental health: 

When you have mental health issues, exercise can be key to lifting your mind and make you feel mentally stronger, but how can you get motivated to even start?

I haven’t always been an exercise freak, and my motivation fluctuates on a monthly basis.

I’m not always in the zone but I know how important it is to stay active even during a spell where I can’t really be bothered.

The power of feelgood hormones, or endorphins, shouldn’t be underestimated for raising your spirits and giving you a sense of self-worth.

Having recently been diagnosed with cancer raised my stress levels massively, and having to work through it (as I’m self-employed) as well as having a family to look after really pushed my mental boundaries!

My regular exercise class stopped and I made excuses not to replace it with anything else.

However, I harnessed the power of my girlfriends to get me moving again and am really enjoying the challenge I’ve set myself this month, which is to walk an average of 10,000 steps per day.

It’s easily measurable on my phone, but alternatively, you can buy a cheap pedometer or watch to track them.

Having the target to aim for has got me moving again and I recently went for a walk with one of my best friends to a local windmill which I’ve been meaning to see for ages.  It was beautiful and clocked up plenty of steps that day!

DoD Windmill

Here are my tips for getting off the sofa and doing some form of exercise, which doesn’t have to be strenuous or time-consuming, but will make you feel much better in body and soul!

Grab a partner!

If you can find a friend in a similar situation then mutual motivation is priceless.

I have a friend whose own exercise plan varies from month to month but we are constantly texting and trying different challenges out.  We hardly see each other but use apps and mobiles to keep in touch.

If you do live near a friend who’d like to do something then look at what classes are available.

I’m constantly surprised how many village halls and community centres near me run a huge variety of class.

Doing a quick search on Google for local exercise classes throws up all sorts of options.

There’s a jive class, Zumba, Cardio pop and even a pole dancing class at my local leisure centre!

That’s on top of the usual aerobics, step, spinning and boot camp options.

They are on at all times of the day so there’s bound to be something that fits in with your lifestyle.

Exercise at home

I know that a lot of people a less motivated to do something at home as you have good intentions but it’s so easy to stay glued to the TV rather than get up and jump around.

In the old days, we’d stick on a Jane Fonda video but YouTube has changed all of that.

You could do a different workout every hour of the day and still not exhaust the possibilities.

From Joe Wicks to jive lessons, pilates to hardcore Tabata and HIIT workouts, the possibilities are endless!

Here are a couple of examples :

Joe Wicks beginner’s workout

Popsugar intense cardio for 20 minutes

Use an app

There are some great apps which offer workout ideas, don’t need any equipment and will remind you to work out when you’ve slackened off for a while.

I really like Seven, which has a range of 77-minute workout sessions, so it’s easy to fit into a day.

Each session is a series of exercises which are demonstrated for you to copy while the clock ticks down, usually for 30 seconds at a time.

Here is the demonstration of the squats which you do for 30 seconds before moving onto the next exercise.

DoD Squats

You can upgrade to a paid plan but the free exercises change every day so you can easily get a variety of options for no outlay.

Another is Sworkit who offer a variety of apps, including one for core and abs, stretching, general workouts and a kids version.

Again, they demonstrate each exercise making it easy to follow.

I tend to get up early in the morning, put on some of my favourite music and do a quick 7-10 minute workout using one of these apps, and then it’s done for the day!

Simple challenges

Enlist a friend or simply challenge yourself in a solo effort to try one of these :

  • Step challenge – try and do 10,000 steps per day for a week, or a month. Many smartphones record steps or you can buy a cheap pedometer.
  • Squats – try and do the day number x 10 squats per day, so 10 on the 1st of the month, 20 on the 2nd and so on.
  • Plank – do your longest plank on day one and then try and increase it by ten seconds each day for a month.
  • Wall sit – as above, try to do it for as long and possible and then increase it every day. Distraction techniques work wonders so I would recommend playing music or a video from YouTube while you’re doing it!  Stick an episode of Friends on, or their best bits, and you’ll be surprised how much longer you can do it each day.

I hope these ideas have motivated you to try something new and get moving.

It will help your long term health if you get active, both physically and mentally.

If you aren’t used to exercising then it’s sensible to check with your doctor first, and always work within your limits.

If you’re up for a fitness challenge then there are some more ideas here Diary Of A Detour – Fitness Challenge.

About the author

Ali writes at Diary Of A Detour on a variety of lifestyle subjects including travel, street art, vintage scooters and fitness.

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Tips for Exercise to Improve Mental Health

This article has 15 comments

  1. Micaela Levachyov

    I don’t like exercising but I do love my daily dog walks which give me time to appreciate the beautiful countryside. It feels like meditation.

  2. Rebecca Whatmore

    I always feel like I have achieved something when I have done some exercise. It is definitely a feel good thing to do.

  3. Anosa

    I do love tips, I enjoy exercising at home but having a partner helps big time too.

  4. Patrick

    I do pray it was caught in time and you’ll be free of that beast shortly (relatively speaking)

  5. Rhian westbury

    I really need to do more exercise as I know how good it makes me feel usually but I’ve not been to the gym properly in a while x

  6. Blogger Mummy Lauren

    I’m glad you’ve found a way to feel good about yourself mentally and physically! I don’t exercise nearly enough as I should, despite knowing the benefits it will have to my mental health, really need to find the motivation! Thanks for the tips.

  7. Mary Williams

    The brain is like a muscle – if you don’t give it a regular workout, it loses tone.

    Here are some tips to help you improve your mental fitness:

    Exercise for 30 minutes every day. Physical exercise delivers oxygen to the brain. This can help to improve your memory, reasoning abilities and reaction times.

  8. elizabeth allcock

    I always exercise with my partner at the gym otherwise I would never find the motivation!

  9. Kara

    It is always better motivation to do something as a pair

  10. bryanna

    such great tips here! we try to walk into town instead of taking the bus and when travelling we walk everywhere – end up walking miles and miles without really noticing (well until the next day when your feet hurt lol)

  11. Crystal

    These are such great tips to help put you in a good mental space. When things get tense, I like to take a walk around the block a couple of times.


    I cannot recommend Mindfulness enough. I did a course, and it helps with my stress, anxiety and pain management.

  13. Chloe Taylor

    Fantastic tips, I’ve been fighting a battle with anorexia for over three years and find the balance of good nutrition and exercise really helps my mind.

  14. Jo

    Great post. I find it very hard to get motivated initially but once I’m in the zone I love it and feel so much better.

  15. Amy Simpson

    Thanks for the tips x

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