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The Relationship Between Mental Health and Physical Fitness

Mental health and physical fitness are two sides of the same coin. They are inextricably linked, and when one suffers, the other often follows suit. This is especially true for office workers and university students, who can find themselves dealing with high levels of stress, long hours, and sedentary lifestyles.

Office workers are at risk for mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and burnout. This is due to a number of factors, including:

  • Long hours: Many office workers put in long hours, either at the office or working from home. This can lead to fatigue, stress, and a lack of time for self-care.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Office workers typically spend most of their day sitting at a desk. This lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other health problems.
  • Job stress: Office workers often have to deal with high levels of job stress. This can be due to tight deadlines, demanding bosses, and difficult co-workers.
  • Lack of social support: Some office workers may feel isolated and lack social support at work. This can make it difficult to cope with stress and mental health problems.

University students are also at risk for mental health problems. This is due to a number of factors, including:

  • Academic pressure: University students often face a lot of academic pressure. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Financial stress: Many university students have to deal with financial stress. This can be due to tuition fees, living expenses, and student loans.
  • Lack of sleep: University students often have trouble getting enough sleep. This can be due to their busy schedules and the pressure to keep up with their studies.
  • Social isolation: Some university students may feel isolated and lack social support. This can make it difficult to cope with stress and mental health problems.

Exercise has been proven, time and again, to have broad benefits on mental health, focus and overall well-being.

Earlier in the year, a study from The University of South Australia (UNISA) proved, in the most comprehensive review to date, that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than counselling or the leading medications at managing mental health issues.

 Of course, that’s not to say that you should ditch counselling or any medication that has been prescribed to you, advice from a GP should be followed above all else. More so, what studies like this show us is that exercise is something that we can consider an important and effective method of managing our mental health and well-being, alongside other interventions.

Lots of times, when people are stressed, they start thinking they have even less time than they do in reality. This leads to cutting out any non-essential activities, which for a lot of people, includes exercise. However, instead of thinking of exercise as another task to add to your list during a busy time, think of it as being complementary to your work or studies, which it really is!

Exercise can improve your mood, improve concentration and even boost your memory and thinking skills!

Remember, physical fitness looks different for everyone and is influenced by a number of factors that are personal to you, like medical history, body type and even the kind of sport you play (if any). Any goals you set should be individualised and designed to work with your lifestyle, schedule, interests and fitness level.

At UNE there are a number of places you can turn to for support and connection on your physical fitness journey. There’s SportUNE, which has state-of-the-art facilities, including a pool, gym and regular classes. Clubs & Societies have a number of sporting teams and athletic groups which are always open to new members.

Lastly, for on-campus students and staff, there is the UNE Healthy Campus initiative. You can connect with other UNE community members while getting active on campus, across a series of special events and activations. The aim of the initiative is to raise awareness of the critical pillars of wellbeing: physical, social, and mental health.

Our first Healthy Campus Event is taking place at UNE’s Armidale campus on the 11th October, so come along and join us for a walk in the fresh air and a nutritious meal.

By embracing exercise as an ally in your pursuit of a healthier, more balanced life, you can unlock the benefits it offers for both your body and mind.