Improving mental health through exercise


The global COVID 19 pandemic has changed everyone’s lives in a way we couldn’t have ever imagined. Our liberty was taken away. We were locked away in our homes. Schools and workplaces were forced to close. We had to accept a new way of life.

Even now, over 18 months later we still aren’t out of the woods. As cases continue to rise and hospitals are getting busier we need to think about how we can look after ourselves.

Our mental health over the last 18 months has been impacted significantly. Our symptoms have included poor sleep, lack of energy or interest, weight gain to anxiety and depression.  Even now we have more freedom, some are still struggling to return to our new ‘normal’.

Data from the Zoe COVID app reported that over a third of people asked in a survey had put on an average of 6.5lbs during the first lockdown. This was likely due to increasing snacking (35%), decreased levels of activity (34%), increased alcohol consumption (27%) and eating a less healthy diet (19%)*.  The report also goes on to say that the UK already has an obesity problem before the pandemic and that lockdown has only made this worse. They want the population to understand the implications this can have on their long-term health.

So what can we do to help to improve our long-term health?

Whilst some people still continue to struggle with their mental health and losing weight, exercise could be the key to our success.


Exercise is thought to increase levels of endorphins, serotonin, and other chemical messengers in your brain, generally putting you in a better mood. It also increases blood flow to the brain, initiating our muscles to relax. Exercise breaks those negative cycles, as the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.

Key benefits to exercise:

  • Better Sleep
  • Better mood
  • Increase self confidence
  • Increased fitness levels
  • Increased concentration levels
  • More energy
  • Stronger resilience

Where do you start?

OK, so we aren’t expecting you to be running marathons by the end of week one. Start slow and build up. A little bit of activity is better than none at all.

Start Small

If it has been a while since you have worked out then start slow. Even 5-10 minutes a day (or as regular as possible) is a great start. Don’t forget to warm up and down after exercise as to not pull a muscle.  Don’t set unrealistic goals of long, strenuous workouts if you haven’t exercised in a while. It will only leave you feeling demotivated.

Setting a goal

Why not start by setting yourself some goals. Maybe it’s to lose a bit of weight, reach your daily steps target for a week or a daily run. Make sure you also reward yourself. The reward can be as big or small as you wish. Maybe it’s some new fitness clothes, lunch with a friend or a long soak in the bath. 

fitness, sport, friendship and lifestyle concept – smiling couple with earphones running outdoors

Exercise when you feel most energised

It is always best to exercise when you are feeling you’re most awake, so try to aim for this time. Exercising when tired or anxious can lead to injury due to a lack of concentration.

Exercise doesn’t always have to be a traditional activity like cycling or running. If you like to clean, gardening, walk the dog or shop then maybe try to pick up the pace a bit more or do it more regularly. This will help increase your move goals for the day.

Aim for 10,000 steps

Where possible try to aim to complete 10,000 steps per day. You don’t need a fancy sports watch to track this. Free apps are available to track your steps. Also try

Workout with a friend

Sometimes working out on your own can be boring. Exercising with a friend is also a great way of socialising. You can also give each other that extra push. There’s nothing wrong with a friendly bit of competition! 

Get the family active

Now is a great time to get the whole family active. Whether it’s walks, cycling, swimming or running, there will be something for everyone to try. It is a great way to spend time together and connect. Ensure you schedule family active time so that everyone can stick to it. Maybe also look at some family goals and rewards.

Further help

If you feel that you want more specialised help with health, weight loss and fitness Elysium Health and Fitness provide private 121 personal training sessions in their boutique fitness studios in Aldford, Chester and Tarporley, Cheshire.

Both studios are set in rural settings to provide clients with complete privacy, perfect for those who don’t want to exercise in front of others. There are no judgements, just their full support.

For more information visit their website, drop them an email, drop them a DM on Social media or give them a call 01244 620202 (Chester studio) 01829 781685 (Tarporley).

*ZOE COVID app report 28th July 2021

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