Physical and mental wellness are equally important and often intertwined, given many people take part in activities that simultaneously enhance both categories of health. However, the everyday demands of life paired with challenges during the pandemic have caused people to de-prioritize their physical and mental well-being.
“There is a symbiotic relationship between mental and physical wellness,” said Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States. “Supporting both critical aspects of health is equally important but can be difficult, specifically during stressful times like the current pandemic. It’s extremely important for people to look for alternative ways to focus on both body and mind and take active steps toward the pursuit of overall wellness.”
A recent national study by Planet Fitness demonstrates the pandemic’s negative impact toward mental and physical health. Three out of four Americans (77%) reported that at least one aspect of their overall health and well-being had been negatively impacted by the pandemic. A whopping 56% (nearly 138 million Americans) said they haven’t made their mental wellness a priority in the past year while the same percent of the population admit they feel stress and anxiety more than ever before. But fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with 92% of Americans whose mental wellness has been impacted by the pandemic reporting they are doing at least one thing to improve it.
While these are concerning results, the great news is the vast majority of Americans are looking to improve their current condition as the pandemic has shed a spotlight on the importance of fitness. Staying active is going to help get everyone on the right path and feeling great about themselves both physically and mentally while also reducing stress. Also, when you perform physical exercise, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine, commonly referred to as the “feel good” chemical because of its ability to contribute to your sense of happiness and positive mental disposition.
Planet Fitness’ Head of Health and Fitness Excellence, Teddy Savage, recommends three ways to enhance an existing physical exercise regimen or simply include as part of a new one, which all are designed to better your mental and physical well-being:
1) A stimulated mind is a happy one
Variety is the spice of life and that can be tricky when stuck at home. To keep your mind engaged and your body active, try infusing fun out-of-the-box elements into your normal fitness routine. That could mean downloading a fitness app chock full of exercises, walking in a new neighborhood park or, once you’re able, joining a gym and kick-starting a new fitness adventure with free guidance from a certified trainer.
2) Slow and steady wins the race at the gym
It’s best to start slow, and finish strong when exercising, especially with weights or resistance machines. Going light will still allow you to add positive stress to the muscles, while providing the chance to really perfect the form and mechanics of each exercise. This will ultimately create a better environment for muscle growth without causing too much stress on the body.
3) Rest “actively”
Incorporate what is called “active rest” during your cardio or between weightlifting sets. For example, if you’re on the treadmill jogging on an incline, decrease the incline or slow to a fast walk to catch your breath before speeding back up again. Doing so rather than stopping altogether keeps your body working and blood flowing as well as ensuring faster recovery for muscles.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the perfect time to try out these mindfulness steps. This is the perfect time to refocus on your mental and physical well-being, so you feel your best, no matter the circumstances.