The Five Ways to Wellbeing give us ideas about how to improve our quality of life. The NHS and Mind promote them. Last time we blogged about them, we looked at how exercise helps improve mental wellbeing.
But fitness fans will be pleased to hear that exercising can help you tick all of those five wellbeing boxes.
Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.
Ok, we’ve started with the simplest. Regular physical activity is associated with a greater sense of wellbeing and lower rates of depression (1). And exercise gets you active. That one is simple enough.
Social relationships promote wellbeing and help prevent mental ill health. The research says that we should do things that both strengthen and broaden our social connections.(2)
We can broaden our social networks by joining an activity class; perhaps yoga, spinning, gymnastics or ballet. We’ll met new people and have something to talk to them about. Or what about a team sport? Playing in a team can builds close connections between team members and there’s often opportunities to be social when you celebrate a win or analyse a lose in the pub or coffee shop.
Exercising together can strengthen our relationships too. Running next to someone, cycling alongside them on a road or exercise bike or doing a yoga class together gives you space to chat and catch up.
Being aware of the present moment can enhance our self-knowledge and help us see more clearly what is important to us.
This may seem like one for the outside exercisers among us but any exercise can help you become more mindful. We can use the fact we’re feeling distinct physical sensations to take notice of your body, your breath and your movement. This can help us perform better too.
People who keep on learning throughout their lives report increased life satisfaction and optimism (4). Luckily, the fitness world is full of opportunities to learn new skills. Teach yourself front crawl, or have someone teach it to you. Learn dancing or yoga. Even if you’re accomplished at a particular sport, why not challenge yourself by learning the best way to improve. Exercise equipment can give you all the stats to help you go faster and feel stronger.
Getting involved in social and community life is strongly associated with feelings of happiness and life satisfaction.
There are more and more ways exercising can help you give and get involved. Parks in cities all over the world run Park Run on a Saturday morning and the Park Run volunteering community is growing too. Initiatives like Good Gym help you get active while doing good in the community.
Or how about teaching and coaching? If you’ve got a skill, why not pass it on? A football club for the kids will help them learn, broaden those connections and make you an important part of the community. And you’ll be encouraging children to take up a lifelong habit of exercise for themselves.
1: Biddle JH, Ekkekakis P (2005) ‘Physically active lifestyles and wellbeing’. In Huppert F, Baylis N, Keveme B (eds) Thescience of well-being (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Cited in SR-E24, which is referenced in Kirkwood T, Bond J, May C, McKeith I and Teh, M (2008) Mental capital through life Challenge Report, (London: Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, 2008) p20.
3 Fredrickson BL (2003) ‘The value of positive emotions: The emerging science of positive psychology is coming to understand why it’s good to feel good’ American Scientist 91: 330–335.
4 Feinstein L, Vorhaus J, Sabates R (2008) Learning through life challenge report (London: Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, 2008) p20. And Feinstein L and Hammond C (2004) ‘The contribution of adult learning to health and social capital’ Oxford Review of Education 30: 199–221.
About the author
Clare (@fostress) writes and works for Mind, Time To Change, The Miscarriage Association and YouthNet. She blogs about mental health and manages her depression and anxiety by running with her collie Dr Watson.