Exercising for mental health

Inspire Blog |

Exercise is widely reported to have a positive impact on a person’s mental health and, although not a cure, exercise is deemed so important that it is regularly prescribed by health professionals as a part of treatment for improved mental health.

This month, Harry, a longstanding member has bravely shared his story of how a referral from a care worker many years ago has helped him to manage his mental illness.

Harry, aged 73, said: “I’ve had mental health issues since I was a lad. I left mainstream school to go to a school with specialised support and I was on medication at a young age to help manage my condition.

“Around the age of 17 I was really struggling, and I tried to take my own life by overdosing. Doctors saved me but I was very down, feeling worthless. At the age of 20 I was referred to Open Minds.” From there, Harry received more acute care for his mental health illness and spent a time in inpatient services.

Harry FB

Harry has struggled all his life with the condition exasperated, he feels, by others not being able to “see” his mental illness in the same way you can see a broken leg. He went on to explain the huge amount of grief experienced in his life and how small incidents can trigger his mental illness. “No matter how much you think you can cope and manage turmoil it does gradually get into your mind,” he said. “You think you’re okay but something minor can happen and you’re back down again, mentally.”

At a point in his life Harry was in a happy relationship and in a stable job. But tragically his partner was killed in a road accident on her way to work just one month before they were due to marry. Harry then lost his job. All these events severely affected Harry’s mental health and a nervous breakdown led him to seek professional support again.

It was at this time that a care worker recommended that Harry tried the gym. Reluctant at first for fear of leaving the house and facing people, Harry did eventually join the gym following this referral and began a supported programme at Scartho gym many years ago.

I initially started on a short six-week programme. But I enjoyed it that much that I’ve been doing it ever since! Once I started, I knew I was getting myself better and I kept it going.

“I now come here [Grimsby Leisure Centre] about two to four times a week and I’ve got a different outlook on life. When I do get those bad thoughts, I get out of the house, and I come here.

Harry Patrick Lincs Inspire member

Harry added: "You’ve got to help yourself. It is no good just sitting in a chair and feeling sorry for yourself. I say to myself, ‘get to the gym, feel a lot better’. The other thing it helps me with is my diet. I feel good for having a good workout, so I go home and have something decent to eat. I’m looking after my body as well. It’s a routine for me now.

“Jenny [fitness supervisor], worked at Scartho gym when I first started and is now here. Jenny has helped and supported me all the way through it. I wanted to share my story to help others, but also because I’m thankful and grateful for what the staff here have done for me, and it’s nice to say thank you now and again!”

Harry Patrick Web 4

Harry has overcome some sad times in his life and exercising has helped him through his journey. He now thinks positively about life and the gym has played a big part in that.

Exercise is not a quick fix nor is it a silver bullet to cure a mental health illness. But it’s a lifestyle change and keeps you physically fit but also mentally healthy as well.

You meet lots of different people who may have also experienced bad situations; it helps you to cope with these issues.

Small gaols and realistic targets are important. Harry has done just this. His commitment and resolve are inspirational.

Jenny Jones Fitness supervisor

If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek help. Whilst exercise can help improve your mental wellbeing, please reach out to mental health professionals for support.

During exercise, the body releases hormones, including endorphins and serotonin. These hormones can naturally help to improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, reduce stress, and improve both memory and concentration. Exercise also helps to provide routine, gives a sense of purpose and social interaction.

Information and help

North East Lincolnshire Mind is a local charity ensuring that those with a mental health problem have somewhere to turn for advice and support. Call (01472) 349991 or visit www.nelmind.or.uk

You can also contact the Single Point of Access service on (01472) 256 256 for urgent help. They offer confidential advice and information over the phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

For more information about how an exercise referral may support you and your mental health, please visit our exercise on referral webpages and find out more about our Active Forever programme.