“I knew that exercise was good for my physical health but I wasn’t expecting the benefits to my mental health”

by Laura Rudland health and wellbeing

When we think of physical activity we often think about the benefits that it can have on us physically and we don’t always acknowledge the positive benefits being active can have on our mental wellbeing. There are many studies to show that doing physical activity can improve your mental health by improving the quality of your sleep, improving your mood and helping you to manage stress and anxiety.

We caught up with Amy who set up a This Mum Runs group locally who has shared her inspiring physical activity journey and the positive impact it has had on her mental wellbeing.

‘It’s only in the last couple of years I have made the connection between my mental and physical wellbeing. I’d exercised sporadically over the years, maintaining a very average level of fitness, but this was more to maintain my weight, never for enjoyment! I’m naturally competitive so I would set myself targets (almost always unrealistic) and then give myself a hard time when I didn’t meet them. Exercising, in turn, became a stress inducer rather than a stress reliever so I never maintained a regular, healthy routine. I found gyms and clubs intimidating and would avoid them for fear of looking stupid, not being fit enough or fitting in.

In 2018, I moved out of the City to a local town with my husband and two young children aged 1 and 3. We didn’t know anyone in the area and we took the decision for me to quit work and focus on the children as my commuting to the City wasn’t working and both children were struggling to settle in childcare. This was a great decision as a family but had a big impact on my mental health. Work has always been incredibly important to me so I found myself isolated, lonely and losing my identity. I decided I needed to do something for myself, something positive, I decided to focus on my physical health and get back into running.

Running was never something I enjoyed before and was an activity I’d mostly done alone so I contacted a local community of women called This Mum Runs and asked if they had a local group I could join. They asked if I’d like to start one! This gave me the focus I needed to get back running and the group started running together in June 2019. The ethos of This Mum Runs is inclusive and supportive, more about your wellbeing as a whole.

This was great for my physical health but what I wasn’t expecting were the benefits to my mental health this brought. My whole mindset has completely changed around exercise. I exercise for fresh air, for headspace, for company and friendship. Most importantly, I run to have time for me, that’s just about me. I don’t care how far I run, how fast or slow, I just go out that door and give myself the time and headspace I need to be healthy. I was really struggling when I started running with This Mum Runs and it took every ounce of courage I could muster to put myself out there. I am so glad I did.

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard or competitive, it doesn’t have to be taken seriously. It just needs to be about you and how it makes you feel – physically and mentally. It’s the gift you can give to yourself time and time again.’

Click here to read more about the benefits of physical activity on our mental wellbeing. 

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about the author

Laura Rudland

Marketing and Administration Officer

T: 0117 32 81881