Georgia talks about how physical exercise has helped with her mental health and how it can benefit yours too. A great read with some amazing tips to apply to your daily routine!

How exercise has helped me with my mental health

Being a children and families social worker, I often have to absorb very hard-hitting information and experience second-degree trauma through my line of work. As humans, we sometimes do not realise how much we are absorbing day-to-day and what impact this has on our overall health. I see problems like a rubbish bin, the more we pile in, the closer we are to exploding. This can have greater impacts like not being able to sleep, being irritable, over and under-eating, difficulty concentrating and may even lead to other symptoms like anxiety and depression. It is our responsibility to take control and empty our emotional garbage in a healthy and therapeutic way.

For me, fitness is my escape. It’s my time which I can give to myself and completely zone out. Think about it, as children, we explored the world through play and reenacted everything that was going on around us, which aided us to work through things we were experiencing. Well as adults, I’m a big believer that we still need this therapeutic time and working out is one of the best ways to do this. I’ve had times where I have felt unmotivated to go to the gym but as soon as I start counting those reps, finishing those sets, I feel so accomplished. We are taught that when we are feeling angry to count to 10, well what if you do this whilst having a barbell on your shoulders and completing some killer squats!

I’ve learned not to overthink it

One of the things that sometimes used to make me dread going to the gym and stopping me from feeling my best was me thinking that a had to do a two-hour workout where I’d have to try and incorporate cardio, strength, abs, you name it. All while maintaining a 9-5 job, maintaining my home and making time for friends and family. So in the end, I’d neglect working out, just to find that I was actually doing more damage and not being able to give my full attention to the other areas in my life as I wasn’t meeting my own needs first. We are all human, we all have emotions and difficult experiences, so I’ve learnt on the weeks where I may be struggling mentally, I’ll start off small. Whether that be a 30-minute workout class at my gym, a long walk and a podcast, a 20 minute run on the treadmill, a yoga class, or even a 10 minute home workout HIIT session, it still gets those endorphins flowing! Stop the all or nothing mindset, see it as adding a penny to the jar every day, even if you miss one day it doesn’t mean the jar is going to lose all of its pennies, it just means it’ll be one penny less, is that even a big deal? But if you miss 10 days, you lose 10 pennies, and this will begin to add up. This is the same as exercise, the smallest habits create the biggest outcomes. Overall, research shows that low-intensity aerobic exercise works best at increasing positive moods, so this is 30 to 35 minutes, 3-5 days a week! Which is probably as far less time spent sitting scrolling on Instagram AND has the added benefit of lifting your mood!

Be kind to yourself and find what works for you – create a bounce-back bible.

I was listening to a podcast by Fearne Cotton on Spotify a little while back and they spoke about the bounce-back bible. This is a personalized self-care routine you make for yourself when in a slump. I find the days where I’ve slept in late, feel too anxious to get out of bed and just want to isolate myself away from the world, I always think it's never too late – and bring in my bounce-back routine. For me, this is putting on a really nice workout outfit (Gaineasy activewear set!), making a feel-good Spotify list of all my favourite songs and completing a workout I enjoy – whatever I fancy working out that day, then coming home,  having a relaxing shower, doing a skincare routine, styling my hair and making a nice healthy dinner. Spot when you are leaning to a bad episode – are you feeling unmotivated, tired, not making healthy decisions with food? I find I practice my bounce-back bible to refocus me on my healthy habits! On days where you simply need to prioritize rest (we all need this!), try some meditating, yoga, stretching, etc, and try again tomorrow if your goal is to go to the gym, for a run, or whatever you wish to do.

Find your calling to fitness, find your tribe.

Fitness doesn’t just have to be cardio or strength training! I’ve recently joined dance classes as this is something I enjoy and a form of movement. Sometimes I have days where I feel bogged down and the last thing I fancy doing is lifting heavy objects, so I found a hobby where I can be active and have fun! Try to find something in your local community where you can get some exercise in and meet your social and emotional needs at the same time. This also means you get to meet others and socialize during your exercise class! This helps to improve your self-esteem and confidence, which all aids a positive sense of self and improves mental health. This can be a hiking club, boxing classes, jujitsu, a yoga class, Zumba, pole dancing, spin classes, etc. There are also many free apps online, I tried the NHS Couch25K program which got me running 5k in 9 weeks throughout lockdown and found this kept me a bay with my sanity when we barely had anything to do in the middle of the pandemic. Mental Health Charity MIND has some really helpful ideas and resources which you can access on physical-activity-and-your-mental-health-2019.pdf (

Running is an incredible form of exercise that can benefit your mental health. Looking to get started? Check out our 5 running tips for beginners  

Remember everyone has their bad days. We can’t be 100% all the time and rest is so important. Allow yourself time to sit with your feelings and use your support networks when you need to talk to someone- whether that be friends, family, your GP, or perhaps a counseling service if you are experiencing consistent feelings of a low mood, anxiety, depression, and access support for yourself. I am not afraid to admit that I’ve had chapters in my life where I’ve sunk to rock bottom, but fitness has pulled me out of the once very dark places and completely transformed my mind. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup and you have to do you first in order to be the best version of yourself!