Michael Keogh   Jan 10, 2022   -   min read

State of Mind

The last 2 years have been a rollercoaster ride to put it lightly! Unfortunately for many of us, that rollercoaster is still going full speed as 2022 gets underway. All the uncertainty, isolation, and external pressures on our lives are having a real impact on the mental health of many of us.

Nearly 1 in 2 (46%) Australians aged 16–85 have experienced a mental disorder during their lifetime, with 1 in 5 of us experiencing a mental illness each year. The most prevalent is anxiety disorders, affecting 1 in 7 people of Australians. Unfortunately, these are pre-Covid numbers – with research from May 2020 finding up to 50% of the study’s 5070 Australian adult participants were experiencing elevated levels of anxiety. I’m sure you can relate to this, either personally or someone close to you.

Movement Medicine

Thankfully, we all have access to an evidence based, government approved, FREE treatment to all of these challenges and more… PHYSICAL ACTIVITY! If exercise could be put in a pill, it would be a billion-dollar industry overnight. The benefits are seriously that good!

The most important takeaway is that any activity is good activity, so do what you LOVE to do. It’s counterproductive to force yourself to go to the gym, if all you want to do is go bushwalking. Just go bushwalking! You’ll find ways to work past any difficulties if you really enjoy the activity, instead of feeling like it’s a chore.

Start Slow, Then Go-Go-Go

Even the most time-poor amongst us can make the time to get moving somehow. Here are a few suggestions that should appeal to you:

Go for a walk

This is where most people start after extended periods of being sedentary – simply going for a walk. You could walk outside or in the shopping centre. You could go alone, with the dog, or with friends. Just focus on getting started – one foot after the other, doing a little more each walk!

Move in nature

Combine the power of movement with the restorative effect of nature. This could be bushwalking, swimming in the ocean, or caring for a garden at home. Just feel the fresh air on your face and reap the benefits!

Practise some yoga

A regular yoga practice teaches deep focus and mindful breathing, two important elements in supporting mental health. Plus you get a great workout, stretching and strengthening your muscles!

Go for a run

Not only does cardio exercise improve your fitness and reduce risk of disease, it also releases endorphins that reduce anxiety and boosts mental energy. Work up to a vigorous jog/run for 30 mins 3 times a week.

Lift something heavy

Working on your strength can have a significant impact on your mental health, whether you actually get stronger or not! Aim to challenge your muscles for 30+ mins a few times a week, either in the gym or at the park.

One final thought..

Don’t try to run a marathon before you’ve put in the ground work, you’ll just burn yourself out and be right back where you started (or worse!).

Start with 1 session a week or 5 minutes a day, and build on the success of achieving that. We’re playing the long game here, and before you realise it, you’ll feel more vitalised and centred in the mind than you have for a while.

  • ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007 (2008)
  • Newby, J., O’Moore, K., Tang, S., Christensen, H., & Faasse, K. (2020). Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. medRxiv.DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0236562
  • Burwood, M, 2008. “Healthy parks, healthy people.”
  • American College of Sports Medicine,, Riebe, D., Ehrman, J. K., Liguori, G., & Magal, M. (2018). ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (Tenth edition.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Want some help using this information to improve your health and life?

About the Author

Michael Keogh is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach with 8 years experience in clinical and corporate settings. He is also the co-author of upcoming book “Thrive: How to 10X your Health, Wealth and Happiness”.

He uses exercise as medicine to treat chronic disease and ensure healthy ageing, whilst guiding his clients towards sustainable health behaviours that result in improved performance and greater satisfaction in work and life.

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