It’s not just our body that we need to look after, but our mind as well!

Here at Live Strong and Prosper, we often present information that stresses the importance of taking care of our body. But it is also important to take care of our mind as well.

With R U Ok? Day approaching, we thought it would be a good time to have a chat about mental health. Specifically, let’s discuss how we can maintain our own mental health and support those around us. 

What do we mean by Mental Health?

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation as: “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

Mental Health conditions affect 20% of Australian’s every year, with 45% of people experiencing a mental health condition at some stage during their lifetime. These mental health conditions include (but are not limited to) depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders and personality disorders. Each mental health condition affects people in different ways, but nonetheless they all have a significant impact on an individual’s overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Even people who are considered mentally ‘healthy’ can go through prolonged periods of sadness, stress or anxiety that can have major implications on their daily life. This is especially true in a society where we are all locked up at home all day while we try and fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many people are impacted by mental health conditions and everyone is susceptible to it. Hence, it is important that we are able to not only understand how to take care of our own mental health, but how to help those around us as well. 

If you would like more information regarding mental health, there are several great organisations with lots of detailed information. Here are three great websites that we would recommend starting with: Headspace (services for young people), Beyond Blue and Black Dog Institute

'R U Ok?' Day

‘R U Ok? day’ is a national day dedicated to reminding us to ask someone who might be struggling with life’s ups and downs if they are okay.

This year, it is being held on Thursday September 10, and on this day we encourage everyone to ask at least one person about how they are doing. This is especially important now as we are all locked up at home as we battle our way through this pandemic!

"I'm just one person, what can I do?"

There are many ways that you can help those around you. Even by yourself, you are able to change the world for one person. Just remember that you do not need to be an expert to help someone, just a great friend!

I could go on for a while about the different ways in which you can help someone who you think might be struggling. The simplest way is to get in touch with them and ask “are you okay?” These three words can be very powerful. Most of us don’t express our feelings naturally because either we are too embarrassed to mention it or just don’t know how to start the conversation. Asking the question provides someone with the invitation to open up and express the feelings that they have buried deep inside. And I’m sure we all know the amazing feeling of that weight lifting off your shoulders when you talk to someone about problem. 

If you are unsure of the best way to ask someone if they are okay, check our the R U OK? website. 

Don't just worry about everyone else!

As important as it is to check in with others and to make sure they are okay, it is just as important to take care of yourself! Maybe you are having some difficulties at home or are struggling with work?  You could be stressed about an upcoming event, missing loved ones or are just generally run down and tired. The reasons will vary for everyone and some ways might not be as important as they way you respond to them. That is why it is so important that you take some time to look after your own mental health.

Like many things, it is easier said than done. But there are many strategies that can help you improve or manage your mental health:

      • Getting some fresh air
      • Yoga or meditation
      • Mindfulness
      • “Me time”
      • Having a conversation with a friend or family member
      • Physical activity and exercise

If things feel overwhelming, keep in mind that your GP is a vital link to professional supports such as a Psychologist.

The power of physical activity

Exercise is often considered as a neglected intervention for mental health conditions. Although there is no consensus in regard to how exercise assists in mental health management, as there are many mechanisms that contribute. However, the link between exercise and positive impacts on mental health is solid and well researched.  Both general aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, swimming, gardening and dancing, and resistance training, done from a gym or home setting, have been shown to provide these benefits.

Regular exercise results in mental health improvements by reducing the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It also helps improve self-esteem, cognitive function, mood, overall quality of life and the symptoms associated with social withdrawal. Further effects of exercise such as improved sleep, energy levels, weight and fatigue management, and cardiovascular fitness have also been particularly helpful for those with mental health conditions.

Where do I start?

As we have mentioned, any form of aerobic or resistance training exercise can help provide these benefits. If you are a bit unsure of what options there are, check out our No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym! post. Looking for something a bit more fun to get the family involved? Try Your guide to making exercise fun for kids! – it has some great options for families of any size!

If doing it alone seems too daunting then simply drop us an email and we’ll make an appointment with you to talk you through the best approach for you. You do not have to do this alone – we are here to help.

Enjoying this Blog?
Check out some of our other posts.

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

Keep an eye out in the future for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series, we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger clients and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Follow us on Social Media!

References and useful resources

Beyond Blue, What is mental health?, viewed 04/09/2020, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health

Black Dog Institute, Facts and Figures about mental health, viewed 04/09/2020, https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/1-facts_figures.pdf

Callaghan, P., (2004). Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care?. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 11(4), pp.476-483.

Photos provided by arek Adeoye, Fernando Cferdo, Josh Riemer, Mor Shani and Sincerely Media via Unsplash.com

R U Ok? Day – https://www.ruok.org.au/join-r-u-ok-day

Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 8(2), 106.

4 tips to help everyone stay limber and focused at your desk!

The inspiration for this post came from a teacher. They were asking about strategies and tips for helping kids survive the many hours they now spend at a desk. 

So here we are – let’s have a chat about how we can help students in the classroom. More specifically, let’s dive into the ideas and concepts relating to a great sitting posture, relieving tension, and using movement to regain focus. All of which will help your students stay loose and focussed throughout a long day of studying. Simply Stronger’s amazing Director, Sara, will be taking you through the journey to discover the four important ways that we can help your students achieve this.

#1 - Sitting posture

The first tip revolves around our posture while sitting. In the following video, Sara will demonstrate and explain the two key points that will help your students maintain a good sitting posture.

The two important messages to remember are to sit on top of your sit bones and shine your chest torch forwards. Once explained and understood, these two cues are very simple ways to quickly remind your students and yourself of the ideal sitting position.

#2 - Desk stretching

I’m sure all of us frequently experience stiffness and tightness while sitting at a desk for a prolonged period. I can imagine that you have been experiencing this yourself, as well as your students, whether  studying/working in the classroom or from home! In the next video Sara will take us through a variety of stretches that can help us reduce that stiffness and stay nice and loose.

Remember, these stretches can help relax and loosen up your bodies, all while staying at your desk:

    1. Lateral Neck Stretch
    2. Levator Scapula Stretch (another neck stretch)
    3. Shoulder Stretch
    4. Wrist Extensor Stretch
    5. Wrist Flexor Stretch

Make sure these stretches are done on both sides of your body, that you take long deep breaths and that you hold the stretch for around 20 seconds at a time.

This is by no means an extensive list of stretches, but a few very good ones to get your started. If you use any alternative stretches, or have an idea for a different stretch or area of your body you would like us to show you, let us know in the comments below!

#3 - Getting mobile

Although the desk stretches are a great place to start, there is nothing better than getting up and moving about after sitting in a chair for a long time. In this video, Sara will show you some exercises that will help your students get moving, loosen up and get rid of that tension building up in their body – especially through their back and hips!

Don’t be shy here, you know it will feel great to try it yourself!

The exercises that you can use to get your students moving are:

    1. Happy puppy, sad puppy
    2. Roll down
    3. Windmill
    4. Knee tucks
    5. Rotations

Remember, these activities can be completed in the classroom, in between classes or while studying at home. It could be a great option to encourage students to try an exercise in the middle of a class to help break up their sitting time.

#4 - Getting your heart pumping

Finally, it’s time to get our heart pumping and get that blood flowing! This is especially important for students to regain focus or maintain their concentration throughout the day. I’ll now pass it over to Sara who will explain and demonstrate some great activities to help with this.

These are the activities that are a great place to start:

    1. Arm swings
    2. High knees
    3. Arm circles (both ways)
    4. Star jumps
    5. Heel kicks

Remember, we are looking for around 20 repetitions of these exercises at a high pace to get our heart rate up – slow and steady won’t win this race!

Of course, this is a great starting point, but there are many great activities out there. If you use a different activity with your students or have an idea of a different exercise, let us know in the comments below!

Not just for teachers and students!

Although these tips have been designed specifically for teachers and their students, they can be applied to any situation that involves prolonged sitting time. Whether you are studying, teaching, working from home or you regularly work from a desk, these tips can help you! Remember, it’s all about reducing tension and staying loose to help us stay comfortable, focussed and productive!

If you do have injuries that prevent you from completing any of these exercises get in touch and we will help you to modify them.

Want to know more?

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

And here is a little sneak peek into some posts that will be coming your way over the next few weeks:

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

Also, keep an eye out for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger members and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

References

Photos provided by NeONBRAND via Unsplash.com

Tips for maintaining your health during a pandemic

Yes, today we are going to talk about the ‘P’ word – Pandemic. I think we can say that we are well and truly into uncharted territory when it comes to Covid-19. 

When I think back to the start of 2020, a pandemic wasn’t even considered a possibility. But here we are months later and our lives have been completely changed by it. Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on our lives and it appears as though this will continue for some time. We are all having to make adjustments to what could be the new normal, at least for a while.

In a lot of situations, these changes are resulting in more physical inactivity, and declines in overall physical health. Thinking about this makes me very concerned. We currently live in a society where video games, iPhones, computers and televisions dominate our attention and already cause significant health complications.

In 2017-18, according to the Australian Institute of health and Wellness, 1 in 4 children and 2 in 3 adults were classed as obese. Physical inactivity throughout the pandemic could see this already high number increase even further.

It is essential, that as a wider community, we do everything we can to at least maintain our physical health while restrictions are in place. So, let’s have a chat about how we can stay physically active during the pandemic and avoid the potential health consequences.

#1 – Break up sitting time

The first thing I want to stress is that sitting is not bad! We all sit every day, and some of us spend more time sitting than we do standing. The issue with sitting is when we remain in the same seated position for prolonged period of time. Our body is designed to move, not remaining stationary in the same sitting position.

Previously, we posted “Sitting – is it really that bad?” and discussed the idea of breaking up prolonged periods of sitting. We also used a lovely water analogy to help explain the problem around this. If you would like to read the explanation, check out the post!

But I would like to spend this time today to focus on what we can do to break up our sitting time and move more. Some options include:

      • Walking while talking on the phone, even inside your house
      • Standing at a bench to work instead of sitting at a desk
      • Leave the remote next to the TV so you need to stand up to change the channel
      • Fold the clean clothes while standing
      • Walk or stand while you read
      • Sweep the floor, rather than always reaching for the vacuum
      • Rake your leaves rather than blowing them into the street 

If you have any other ideas on how to move more and break up sitting time, let us know in the comments below!

#2 – Game based exercise

There are many ways to be active while having fun and playing games. You could play a game like Twister, Hyperdash, Charades, Hide-and-Seek, building a blanket fort or even Duck Duck Goose! All of these can be played within your own home and, let’s be honest, us adults would still enjoy playing these games we loved as kids!

Alternatively, depending on how large your backyard is, you can take the games outdoors. A great option is sports – cricket, basketball, soccer, footy, the list is endless! If you have the equipment, then why not head on out and use it? I know for me personally I enjoy playing downball with my sister, and all it takes is a $2 high bounce ball (or even a tennis ball). Even riding a bike, jumping on a trampoline or pogo stick, or building your own obstacle course are all great options! Your only limitation is your imagination.

If you need some inspiration, check out this obstacle course video. Here you’ll find 10 stations that we created using items you can find in your home, any of which could be used to create your own homemade obstacle course.

#3 – Visit the home gym

Everyone’s home gym will be different. Some of us will have been able to get to the shops before all of the home exercise equipment was sold out, some of us weren’t so lucky. But there is no advantage or disadvantage to this. Just as there are many ways to exercise with equipment, there are just as many options without it.

In our previous post “No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym!“, we discussed various ways that you can exercise outside of the gym. This includes activities that can be done at home with no equipment. Check it out if you need some ideas for home exercise!

Alternatively, if you would like some equipment to use at home, you can hire or buy equipment from Simply Stronger. Check out our website or contact us for more information.

#4 – Enjoy the great outdoors

The great outdoors – I’m sure we think of rainforests, a lake or a nice walking path when we think of this. But, we have our own version of the great outdoors at home – our backyard! 

You don’t even need to do anything too strenuous. Yes, walking around, playing a game or doing some exercise would be the most beneficial thing to do. But, just getting outside into the fresh air is great for our mental health, especially when we are at home all day.

#5 – Step away from the screens

I’m sure we are all aware of how prolonged time using electronic screens can impact us. Many of us spend hours upon hours staring at electronic screens. It has become an integral part of our society and many people rely on this technology.

Although our iPhones, computers and televisions are a great way to access information, stay in touch with friends a family and play games – and I can’t forget it’s importance in working from home and online learning – too much time in front of screens has a negative impact on not only our physical health, but our mental health too.

Thankfully, any of the methods discussed in this post can be used as effective ways to break up screen time. You can stand up and move around, play a game (away from the screen), complete a puzzle, or go outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Now I understand this may be difficult for those who are addicted to their screens (yes kids, I’m talking to you!), but it is essential that we don’t spend hours on end staring at a screen. 

#6 – Exercise your mind

Just as important as it is to take care of our body by being active, it is also important to look after our mind. Mental health has been coming to the forefront over the last few years and it has become clear that it is a problem within our society. From depression to anxiety and even stress, mental health cannot be ignored.

Yes, being active and getting outside is great for our mental health. Even reducing screen time is helpful with this. But keeping our mind sharp and in tip top condition is just as important. 

A great way to do this is by doing some puzzles. This could be a jig-saw puzzle, crossword, word search, sudoko or riddles. Anything that challenges your mind and makes you think is going to be good for you, especially if the alternative is watching more TV and letting your mind go to sleep!

#7 – Be social

Although we can’t go out and meet up with friends, it is important o remain social. We crave human interaction! Thankfully, we are in the golden era for social media. There are so many ways to stay in touch with our friends and family. Even if social media isn’t your forte, why not pick up the phone and give them a call? I know the younger generation love texting and social media, but that isn’t for everyone. And hearing someone’s voice over the phone is just as valuable as seeing them on Zoom or keeping touch on social media.

Want to know more?

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

And here is a little sneak peek into some posts that will be coming your way over the next few weeks:

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Follow us on Social Media!


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References

Australian Institute of Health and Wellness, 2019, Overweight and Obesity, Australian Institute of Health and Wellness, retrieved 20/07/2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/overweight-obesity/about 

Photos provided by free to use sounds, Joseph Pearson, Ross Sneddon and Zuza Galczynska via Unsplash.com