Can exercising outdoors improve mental health?
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the connection between exercise and mental health. Regular exercise can have a positive impact on our mood, our self esteem, our ability to concentrate as well as our productivity levels. It can also help manage or reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
When we exercise outside, the benefits are even greater. Research has found links to increased creativity, self awareness and emotional intelligence.
Is it time to integrate exercise into psychological therapy?
It’s not surprising to see psychologists and other health professionals embracing exercise and the outdoors as part of their treatment plans.
Incorporating exercise and the outdoors into clinical and/or performance psychology work can be highly effective while still upholding ethical and professional boundaries. It’s not about running for miles alongside your therapist. It’s about drawing on the healing power of nature and the outdoors, removing the restrictions of an office, getting off the couch and committing to health and exercise resolutions.
Who will benefit?
Psychological therapy patients – Fresh air and exercise can make a world of difference to someone’s experience of psychological therapy. Sessions can be meditative and relaxing, or fast paced and action focused depending on the needs of the patient. Embracing movement and experiencing the outdoors with a qualified psychologist is a double dose of goodness because it promotes optimal mental and physical health.
Professional athletes – For the athlete or performer, combining exercise and therapy can improve performance in many ways. It can be a highly motivating and constructive method for setting goals and can address issues of performance anxiety. Training with a professional therapist can help athletes develop techniques for better focus so that they perform better under pressure.
Children and adolescents – For children and adolescents, a combination of exercise and psychological therapy can be useful for encouraging healthy lifestyle behaviours and exploring tools for managing stress and anxiety.
The general public – For the general population, an integration of exercise and therapy can be highly effective for those suffering from anxiety, depression, phobias, panic disorders, trauma related disorders and chronic pain, as well as behaviour interventions for health challenges, such as diabetes and obesity.
This article was originally published here by Sydney East Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics.
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