Move & Breath for Mental Wellbeing

exercise technique published article safe movement Oct 31, 2021

Movement & the Mind

Stress and anxiety are a real concern, no matter what our age. With our communities increasingly suffering the consequences of COVID lockdowns and restrictions, it only seems to be worsening. Add to that the constant environmental issues we face every day from extreme weather events; concern about the planet for our children and grandchildren, and for older people the ever-present worry about their health, fitness and ability to retain their independence. 

Fortunately, there’s a simple thing you can do every day that is pretty much guaranteed to make you feel better – and that’s exercise! 

Research has shown that exercise is not only vital for improving physical condition and fighting disease but also for reducing stress and anxiety.  In fact, exercise can be more effective than medication.  Studies show that exercise is also very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and enhancing overall cognitive function. 

And it doesn’t need to be a big deal.  

Get your blood pumping! 

It can be as simple as 30 seconds of some vigorous arm swing squats. Try it!  

  1. Stand up with your feet straight and hip-width apart.  
  2. Lift your arms overhead, at the same time lifting your chin and chest and breathing in through your nose.  
  3. Now breath out strongly through your mouth as you swing your arms down strongly, moving into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. It doesn’t need to be a big squat – you can even do this seated in a straight-backed armless chair and simply bend forward from your hips. But if you are standing, remember to keep your heels on the floor as you squat and keep your head and chest up as you move down.  
  4. Then as you breath in, come up to standing (or sitting up) lifting your arms overhead.  
  5. Repeat 10 or 15 times. 

How do you feel? You should notice that you’ve raised your heart rate and you may be puffing a little. You should feel more alert and energised. This little sequence “clears the pipes” by oxygenating your brain and getting your blood pumping through your body.  

If you want to ramp it up a little, use your voice, loudly saying UP when your arms lift and DOWN when you lower them. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel. 

Of course, there’s other things you can do - a 10-minute walk outside, or some stretches in your bed before you get up in the morning, right through to a full-on workout or community class. The important thing is to move and to breathe with intention and awareness, and aim to include some vigorous movements to get your heart rate up. 

You may need to push yourself to get started, but just notice how much better you feel afterwards, both physically and mentally, and it should become easier to motivate yourself. Adding exercise into your day also helps to give your day structure and gives you a feeling of achievement and satisfaction. And all it takes is you! 

Written by Marya Hopman – Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, founder of  OptimalMe Fitness and co-founder of seniors exercise providers SuperCue Seniors 

 As featured in Seasons Magazine's November 2021 Issue

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