Is it strange that our society typically views physical and emotional health as two separate entities that work interdependently of each other? Well over a year into lockdowns, orders to socially isolate, and fear of returning to life as normal, we are in the midst of a global mental health crisis that we cannot fully comprehend the severity of until adequate research data is gathered. People are in desperate need of help. If you mention fitness as a means of combatting this though, you often get some puzzled looks. How can this be the case? Isn’t there just something I can take?
My personal belief is that we are conditioned to think of physical health and emotional health as separate entities and not for what it is – health. Plain and simple. There is just health. For the sake of argument though, let’s look at them separately for a couple minutes. Researchers in the UK conducted a study over a period of seven years, using just over 150,000 participants, to determine if physical fitness could be used as a means of preventing the onset of symptoms resulting from depression and anxiety. What they found is that participants classified as having low combined cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength had 98% higher odds of experiencing depression and 60% higher odds of experiencing anxiety. It’s important to note that causation could not be proven with this study, but it did establish a clear link between physical fitness and emotional regulation.
Is this study telling you anything you didn’t already know though? Anyone who has stuck to a fitness and nutrition plan for any period of time can tell you the effect it has on their headspace and overall mood throughout the day. I’m not here to say that fitness is the only thing required to deal with injuries such as Post Traumatic Stress, but it can be what is necessary right now to get you in the right frame of mind to seek further treatment.
One thing that I did not notice quantified in the above study is if the participants were working out in groups or on their own. Aside from the effects physical fitness alone has in preventing mental health injuries, I’d be interested to see how the numbers change when aspects of accountability and becoming part of a community are introduced. There are existing studies on athlete’s following injury that indicate a heightened risk of depression due to the loss of a perceived sense of community.
So what good does research data do if we don’t create something actionable with the results? Well, this tells us we need to get out and move and we need to do it as part of a community. This is a big reason why we started going to partnered training sessions on Saturdays and constructed them in a way that you can meet up at a local garage gym, park, or wherever, and knock them out with other people. If you don’t have a training partner yet, then hit the training team link in the menu and join our training group.
I’d also encourage you to check out Operation RSF and VETWOD. Both are non-profits that are working to destigmatize mental health injuries and connect others through building sweat equity.
The great part about using movement as medicine is that you can start right now. It costs nothing, you don’t need a prescription, and you can be on it the rest of your life. Turn your intent into habit, and your habit into a lifestyle. Start today.