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World Mental Health Day 2022

by Bill Davis

Mental health and physical wellbeing are connected, and more people are reaping the rewards that exercise has on mental health as part of a shift to whole person wellness. 

Today is World Mental Health Day, it’s a day to  focus on our mental wellbeing, however I believe every day is that day. If our head is not in a great place, then our daily routines (at home and at work) often reflect this and eventually it resonates physically.  We know that it’s been proven that regular exercise can naturally help your overall mental health and I was encouraged to see that the Next Fitness Consumer Survey 2022, conducted by ABC Fitness Solutions, showed that more people than before are joining gyms and clubs and attending them regularly as part of their mental health wellbeing.

Looking back on recent years its clear to see that factors out of our control can produce undue stress and anxiety for most people. Factors such as long days confined to our homes, which for some people meant complete isolation, combined with job losses, health problems, and even loss of loved ones had a profound impact on the mental wellbeing of people around the world.  The places we went to, to meet up socially were off limits, including gyms and clubs, so members were deprived access to equipment or classes, and they were missing out on important social interaction – further defining factors of mental wellness.

Today the active consumer’s primary goal for fitness and exercise is still simply to “be active” (at 47%, interest levels for this goal are unchanged from 2021). However, there is growing interest, in the desire to maintain and improve mental health and stress relief through a fitness regimen (at 44%, it’s up 9 points from 2021). The discussions I have with colleagues and industry gurus reflects a shift that supports these consumer desires.

Gyms and club owners are boosting the mental wellbeing of their members in a variety of ways. I like it when I talk to owners and they tell me that they’ve added a mental wellness specialist to their staff, or when a member tells me that they not only go to the gym for fitness classes but also enjoy the regular meditation sessions that are now provided. It fills me with pride that as an industry we care about the physical and mental wellness of those that visit our establishments, whatever their reason for doing so is.  But don’t take my word for it, this was also highlighted in the Next Fitness survey, which showed that consumers valued a health club or gym that could or would provide programs and services that help them address mental wellbeing.

But why do we feel better when we exercise?

So, to give all this a little scientific context, here’s the biological explanation behind the correlation of physical exercise and mental health. Exercising or doing physical activities makes our brain release natural endorphins, which are essentially feel-good hormones giving us a natural high.  Although we’re burning energy through our workout, we actually feel better and are giving ourselves more energy through the release of these endorphins. In addition, doing something physical releases cortisol, which helps us manage stress and deal with anxiety, two of the main factors that can cause a decline in a person’s mental health.

Finally, as it’s World Mental Health Day, take a moment for yourself, give yourself an endorphin boost by putting on your running shoes for a run or a brisk walk, go for a swim or drop into your local gym or club (it’s a great time to join!) But most of all remember that to be the best you, you need to be mentally and physically strong, so I encourage each of us to do something that makes you feel the best you!