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Mental and Physical Health and Wellbeing

11th May 2021

We all know that when illness or injury strike, they impact our physical health. But the same is true of mental health problems and their effect on our overall state of wellbeing. The thing is, our mental and physical health are intertwined. To thrive, we need to look after both. Fortunately, while the body and mind may be phenomenally complex, it can be reassuringly straightforward to maintain good mental and physical wellbeing. You can get started by working these five simple steps into your daily routine…

  1. Eat Well

A healthy, balanced diet can support good physical and mental health, and help you feel your best. It’s important to eat a good variety of the right foods, in the correct proportions that work for you. Diets rich in fibre, fruit, leafy greens, and omega 3 fish oils (found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel) are known to positively impact our mental and physical health. Why not try to think about how you can regularly incorporate some of these into your healthy eating regime? As part of looking after our mental and physical health, it’s also important to try to limit the intake of highly processed foods and sugary soft drinks.1,2,3 Remember, healthy diet, healthy body, healthy mind!

  1. Drink Plenty of Water

Your body is nearly 60% water, so it’s little wonder that dehydration can have a significant negative impact on your mental and physical health.4 Not only can it give you headaches, but it can also negatively impact your mood, energy levels and how alert you feel.5 Carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day and protect your health wherever you go.

  1. Make Time for Sleep

Sleep isn’t just something we enjoy as a reward for a hard day’s work. It’s part of the natural rhythm of life. It’s an essential part of our survival, and a vital component for good mental and physical health. Without good sleep, your immune system can be negatively compromised. Poor sleep is associated with many physical health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Sleep disturbance has also been linked to all major mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. An average adult should have between 7 and 9 hours’ sleep every night.6

  1. Get Plenty of Exercise

It’s long been known that physical activity enhances our mental health,7 so try to build regular exercise into your week in a way that works for you. Evidence shows that people who exercise experience fewer days of poor mental health, with the best results seen with durations of 45 minutes, three to five times per week and in team sports, cycling and gym activity.8 But you don’t have to start running 10km routes or taking high-energy gym classes; even the smallest amounts of exercise can make a difference, such as a short walk outside.

  1. Take a Deep Breath

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that relaxation has a positive impact on both your mental and physical health. There are many ways to relax and feel a sense of calm, and it’s a question of exploring what works best for you. Deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, yoga and tai chi are all relaxation techniques you could try; they’ve all been shown to reduce your body’s physical reaction to stress.9 Try to build regular periods of deep breathing and relaxation into your weekly or even daily schedule.

Dr Sile McDaid & Dr Libby Artingstall, Co-Founders Wellbeing Through Sport


References:

  1. Lassale et al (2018). Healthy dietary indices and risk of depressive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Molecular Psychiatry 26 September 2018. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-018-0237-8
  2. Sofi, F et al (2008). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. The British Medical Journal. Available at: https://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a1344.long
  3. Chatterjee, R. (2018). The Stress Solution. Penguin Random House UK.
  4. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA. Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1459
  5. Benton & Young. (2015) Do small differences in hydration status affect mood and mental performance? Nutrition Reviews 2015 Sep;73 Suppl 2:83-96
  6. National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times, 2015. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
  7. Peirce et al (2018). The role of physical activity and sport in mental health. The Sports and Exercise Psychiatry Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, MIND. Available at: https://www.fsem.ac.uk/position_statement/the-role-of-physical-activity-and-sport-in-mental-health/
  8. Chekroud, S.R., et al. (2018). Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study. Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30227-X/fulltext
  9. Harvard Medical School (2011). Understanding the stress response: Chronic activation of this survival mechanism impairs health. Harvard Health Publishing. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response