Exercise and Mental Health

Today is World Mental Health Day – a day for sharing and talking openly about mental health issues, this year with an emphasis on mental health in the workplace. My workplace sees at first hand the effects of a very serious and common form of a mental health condition called postnatal depression. For many of us it’s something that lasts for a short while causing us to feel down, energy less, tired and can affect our appetite. For others the symptoms are more serious leading to feelings of guilt, self-blame, difficulty bonding with your baby and even suicide.

Physical inactivity and mental health issues are becoming increasingly linked and just last week Sarah Bosley reported in The Guardian last week that a study by The Black Dog Institute in Australia found that even one or 2 hours exercise a week can help depression. Researchers from Birmingham University, in a study published this year in the British Journal of General practice, found that exercise is effective in reducing postpartum depressive symptoms.  The PHE has also been working with the World Health organisation on a new global action plan for physical activity. Dr Justin Varney from the PHE wants us to get hot and sweaty for 10 minutes every day. Not much of an ask when you think about it or is it?

When you peel back the onion it soon becomes clear that the right type of exercise comes into play. The minimum recommended exercise length is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week (brisk walking, water aerobics, tennis doubles) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, hockey, uphill cycling), or a mixture of both. The more activity you do and the higher the intensity, the greater the benefit.

As a women’s health physiotherapist, keen exerciser and runner I am thrilled that the power of exercise is being recognised. However I also recognise that many of the postnatal patients I see suffer urinary leakage, pelvic organ prolapse and diastasis recti. Vigorous, intense exercise will only worsen these very debilitating physical conditions if they are not rehabilitated correctly.  For this very reason I look at you holistically, encouraging and supporting your return to running and high impact training safely and effectively.

In November I will be launching a running clinic that will assess your running technique. The aim is to rehabilitate you safely taking care to offer sensible, professional advice. There will be more information to come over the next few weeks detailing the criteria that must be met to have this assessment but suffice to say it will be a useful adjunct for any woman keen to run post baby. Your physical and mental health are very important to me, stay tuned for further details.IMG_5450

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