Movember 2018: Plagued by depression, anxiety or other mental health problems? Six ways exercise can help…

Unlike men's fitness, however, men's mental health is still something we're struggling to tackle – and when you consider that one in eight men in the UK has experienced a mental health problem, that's a problem.

Undoubtedly, fitness that focuses on Love Island body shapes isn't helping matters; men can suffer from body confidence just as much as women.

But exercise for the sake of exercise – running, football, cycling – is another matter altogether.

Last year, scientists from the mental health group Black Dog Institute found that as little as one hour of exercise a week could help to prevent depression, while the NHS says that regular exercise can boost your mood if you already live with depression.

When you're experiencing poor mental health, it can be a massive drag to even get out of bed – let alone jump on a treadmill.

That's particularly the case if you're one of the 10 per cent of people in the UK living with a disabling anxiety disorder because you've got to continuously bat away crowding thoughts.

But if you possibly can, it really is worth trying to get moving. Here's why:

1. Getting into nature is a natural mood-lifter

Leading a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to lower mood, while spending time in green spaces has been proven to reduce feelings of stress or anger.

A 2017 report found that people who lived close to trees or green spaces are less likely to be obese or dependent on anti-depressants.

So that could mean simply going for a walk around your local park, or going to some playing fields for a game of footie.

2. It helps you connect with other people

Depression and anxiety can be isolating.

With loneliness being a key driver of poor mental health in men, group sessions are a great way to get fit whilst meeting new people.

Rabble is a games-based interval training company whose mission is to make sure you’re having so much fun that you don’t realise you’re working out.

But don’t be fooled, these sociable HIIT workouts (disguised within a game of British Bulldog or Dodgeball) are hardcore.

If you just fancy going out for a jog, you could try RunTogether, which is a resource that helps you find other people to run with – of all sizes and experiences.

And Run Talk Run is a global mental health support running group which offers everyone a safe space to chat while jogging along.

3. Regular exercise is a great boredom-buster

Sometimes you just need a distraction – something to take you completely out of yourself.

There are plenty of destructive ways to do that, but exercise is a much more productive means of giving yourself a dopamine hit.

4. Getting fit can improve your self-image

Fitness shouldn't necessarily be about weight loss or fat burning but it's a handy bonus.
Advocates of MMA (mixed martial arts), for example, rave about the substantial benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing.

It'll whip you into shape before you know it while also upping your self-esteem and reducing your stress. Absolute winner.

5. It might give you the confidence to seek further help

Everyone should be able to talk about how they feel and get help if they need it.

You might not want to go into the ins and outs of your mental health in the changing room at your gym but looking after your body and doing something good for yourself might just help you to get the strength to reach out to someone you can rely on – be that a GP or friend.

6. Join in on a MoRunning event

This year, Movember is working to get men the help they need by getting us all moving more.

Throughout November, the charity is putting on 5k (£18) and 10k (£22) events up and down the UK – from Exeter to Edinburgh.

And there'll even be special Mini MoRunning races too (£10). You can find your local run here.

But that's not all. Movember have also teamed up The Gym Group which has said that it'll donate £1 to the Movember Foundation for every new member.

Now if that's not the #fitspo you needed to get a sweat on, we don't know what is.

"Exercise is great for our mental health for a number of reasons," Dr Victor Thompson, Clinical Sports Psychologist, told The Sun.

"It releasing endogenous opiates – our body’s happy hormones – which work to lift our mood. It takes us away from the stresses and strains of life for a while.

"When exercising we are doing something for ourselves, showing that we are worth prioritising."

Dr Thompson told us that there's "substantial evidence" to suggest that exercise can help manage common problems like anxiety and depression.

"Exercise should be kept simple. For most people, walking can done most easily – it doesn’t require going to a gym or any equipment.

"Choose what you might like, or have liked before. For instance, did you like swimming? Then try going to your local pool. Hate running? Then don’t try to start your exercise habit with a daily run!

"One tip is to avoid anything too stressful or competitive, especially if you are feeling not so great, or you are just starting out."

While men might be more likely to go to the gym than to a therapist, Dr Thompson says that the vast majority of us simply don't move enough during the day – so if you are struggling mentally, you really should try to move more.

On the poor mental health weeks, that might just involve walking an extra ten minutes two or three times a week.

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