Walking for Your Mental Health

We all know of someone who has experienced a mental health condition. It might be a sibling, parent, close friend, neighbour, or, it could be you. Close to half of the population will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives, and from time to time, everyone will experience signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties. So, what does it all mean? How can we support our mental wellness and the mental health of those in our lives?

 

According to the World Health Organisation, the term mental health is "a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." Unfortunately, it becomes harder to maintain the mental wellness, resilience, and productivity needed for day-to-day life when dealing with mental health difficulties. More often than not, people experiencing mental health difficulties find it challenging to reach out for the necessary help to achieve mental wellness.

Australian Mental Health Statistics: 

  • Three million people in Australia are currently experiencing anxiety or depression.
  • Nine people sadly take their own lives every day on average, 7 of which are men.
  • More women than men report experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress.
  • While women are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, men are less likely to talk about it.
  • Mental health problems are the third most significant health problem in Australia after Heart Disease and Cancer.
  • In 2019, suicide was the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-49 years.

The statistics above show that mental health in Australia is a serious area of concern. However, it's something we can all bring awareness to and contribute to bettering with the support of those closest to us and our community.

How ASN supports Mental Health

At ASN, we're committed to doing our part to support mental health awareness as we know that proper health extends beyond getting great results with your training and nutrition. Mental health is an issue we just can't ignore.

On Friday the 14th of May to Sunday the 16th of May, ASN will host a charity shaker weekend in-store and online where all proceeds from $5 shaker sales will be donated directly to Beyond Blue to support their incredible work improving the lives of individuals affected by depression, anxiety, and suicide. Ready to load up on $5 shakers? shop our range now!

Sarah West, our wonderful General Manager here at ASN, sadly shares a personal connection to this cause since losing her brother-in-law to suicide just a few short years ago. Like many who have shared experiences with losing loved ones to Mental Health conditions, Sarah has invested her time into identifying ways to spread awareness and initiate support to improve mental health and suicide prevention. 

On Friday the 21st of May, Sarah will embark on a 30km fundraising walk with Wild Women On Top fitness and fundraising challenge, Coastrek, Beyond Blue's largest ever community partner. Over the 12 years Coastrek has been operating, they have raised $30M for charity and trekked over 1 million kilometres. Each year 10,000 women immerse themselves in nature to change lives and support a cause that needs all of our attention, mental health. If you would like to learn more or donate to this fundamental cause and to support Sarah on her 30km Coastrek Walk to improve the lives of those battling with their mental health, please click here.

So, how can we do this together?

Like many of us, the thought of treating mental health issues can be a little overwhelming. While taking care of your mental health could mean seeking treatment from a health professional, it also means taking a few steps on your own to support your emotional and physical health better. Walking, in particular, is a simple lifestyle change that can improve mental health and overall wellbeing.

Step it out

We are talking about getting out and moving your body to experience all of the scientifically proven benefits that can come from physical exercise and enjoying the outdoors. Mostly, the barriers people face when it comes to exercise or going for a simple walk are “I just don't have time” or “I'm too tired.”' However, prioritising your time prioritises you, your quality of life, relationships, work, everything! So, let's talk about these benefits a little more.

The top 3 benefits of walking for your mental health 

1. Reduces Stress

As we know, there are many physical benefits of walking, such as reducing the risk of heart-related diseases, the treatment of chronic health conditions, circulation improvement, and weight management. However, the benefits related to reducing stress are some we all could do with noting.

From time to time, we all need a break. The constant pressure from our day-to-day lives of work and relationships can lead to increased stress and fatigue, both mentally, physically, and emotionally. Prioritising self-care by walking just 30 minutes per day is a stress management technique that could put your mind in a meditative state away from the weight of life situations. It may improve your sleep quality, increase energy levels, nurture the nervous system and boost your attention span, giving your mind and body the energy it needs to keep on keeping on when it all feels a little heavy. Research indicates that taking a walk outside can improve memory and attention span by up to 20%, even when it's cold. How amazing is that?!

2. Improves Productivity

Whether you work from home or a busy office, spend your days studying or caring for someone, or are at home feeling overwhelmed by your never-ending to-do list, productivity is crucial for our mental health and sense of achievement. It feels good to get in and get things done, right? But when you struggle to get started on that essay or report, to put away that couch full of clothes, or to find the energy to get out of bed, you tend to experience feelings of disappointment, guilt, and inadequacy, to name a few, which all affect mental health.

 

Research suggests that people who go for a walk when feeling unproductive tend to return feeling more alert, confident, enthusiastic, and less tense. So, scheduling in a non-negotiable walk to support your mental health will not only boost your mood and productivity, but it will help you cope better with your to-do list and give you the mental clarity and energy needed to finish that report without loading up on caffeine or sugar filled snacks!

3. Produces Endorphins (feel-good chemicals)

When you exercise, endorphins are produced by the central nervous system and provide us with those feel-good, 'yeah I just did that' kind of feelings! These neurochemicals are produced to maximise pleasure and minimise discomfort, but the benefits don't stop there. 

Now, you don't have to run an entire marathon to experience the benefits of endorphins. Walking releases endorphins that aid in boosting self-esteem, reducing stress and anxiety, reducing your perception of pain, and encouraging feelings of positivity and optimism. Often referred to as 'happy hormones’, it's easy to see why endorphins are hugely beneficial to improving mental health and providing such significant changes to your overall state of wellbeing.

Additional benefits of walking outside

Further to the above benefits of walking to improve mental health, the benefits of walking outside, in particular, are just as vital. Fresh air allows your lungs to work at total capacity by sending plenty of oxygen through the blood, plus oxygen to your brain! More oxygen gives you more energy and better brain function, which in turn improves concentration and alertness, equaling more brain power!

If you support someone with a mental health condition or require immediate support, talk it through with Beyond Blue. Help and support are available 24/7 on 1300 224 636 and Lifeline on 131114.

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