Summer months are full of activities, whether it’s walking along the beach, going for a swim, biking or hanging out in the park with our furry friends, the list goes on. Though, as Fall starts to creep in, classes resume and work picks up, many of us begin to transition back indoors and become more sedentary. Let’s be sure we don’t let our activity levels drop off.
Fall is still a great time to get outdoors in the cooler temperatures and to enjoy the beauty of the changing of the season. It is, however, important to note that as the seasons change so do our moods. While we all know the physical benefits of staying active, the less tangible impact on mental health is still incredibly important to be cognoscente of and to stay educated about.
We turned to our Her Life Depends On It III research to provide you with some of the top line facts regarding mental health and how it can be improved through physical activity. Her Life Depends On It III is the Women’s Sports Foundation’s comprehensive report that reviews existing and emerging research on the links between participation in sport and physical activity, and the health and well-being of American girls and women.*
Numerous studies have shown that physical activity works as an anti-depressant by elevating one’s mood and creating a sense of happiness and well-being. It has also been shown that lower levels of physical activity in one’s childhood have a correlation to increased likelihood of depression in adulthood. With depression there can be other serious emotions such as feelings of anxiety and suicide, but these too can be positively impacted by participation in physical activity.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health disorders. Occasional anxiety can be a part of one’s daily life but an anxiety disorder is when the feelings of worry or fear do not go away and interfere with one’s daily activities. A nationwide assessment by the American College Health Association showed that “college women who exercised were less likely to report feeling hopeless or depressed”(Taliaferro et al., 2008). Another study by the World Health Organization found that, “women who participate in physical activity as adolescents have better control over anxiety and depression”(World Health Organization, 2009).
Sadly, suicide is the third-leading cause of death in the United States amongst people aged 15-24, accounting for one of every eight deaths in this age group (American Association of Suicidology, 2006; CDC, 2008). Globally, suicide is the seventh-leading cause of death for women ages 20-59 and the fifth-leading cause for women ages 25-44 (World Health Organization, 2009). On average, women are three times as likely to attempt suicide as men (American Association of Suicidology, 2006). This is a devastating statistic, but there is hope.
Women who participate in sports are less likely to consider, plan or attempt suicide. Participating in sports and not just solitary exercise provides a social network that can serve as a strong emotional support system. Being surrounded by teammates, coaches, friends, parents and others, offers a space to connect and bond and feel able to share one’s feelings. Participating in physical activity can also increase one’s self-esteem and body image, elevating the way he or she feels about themselves.
When we take care of our body it takes care of us. Physical activity goes far beyond improving our physical health but is also key to positively impacting our short-term and long-term mental health. So while the temperature may be cooling down don’t let the changing season prevent you from being active.
If you tend to eat lunch at your desk while your work consider going for a short walk around your building to break up your day and stretch your legs a little. If you find it difficult to manage a workout at the end of the day perhaps try a morning workout where nothing else can be scheduled and start your day with a strong feeling of accomplishment. Even if you only have 10-20 minutes, time you might usually spend watching a little television, why not add in some squats or abs or stretches while you watch.
Want to give your mental health an even bigger boost? Join your company’s softball or basketball league Find a running or walking partner or even connect with the people in your group workout class and see them as your teammates every week when you go in together, pushing you and cheering you on.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate a little more movement to your day if you are willing to make activity a priority in your life. Which, looking at the research and facts, is clearly something that should be made a priority due to the life-long benefits it has on your body and mind. So, bundle up and enjoy the slightly cooler weather! Happy fall all.
*Staurowsky, E. J., DeSousa, M. J., Miller, K. E., Sabo, D., Shakib, S., Theberge, N., Veliz, P., Weaver, A., & Williams, N. (2015). Her Life Depends On It III: Sport, Physical Activity, and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls and Women. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.
All statistics and information in this article have been obtained from ‘Her Life Depends On It III.’ Read the full report here.