One quick and easy way to improve your policy on employee mental health...

There is no doubt improving physical health can have a significant positive impact on mental health – the two are closely connected. It's important to note that the relationship between physical and mental health is complex, and while improving physical health can have a positive impact on mental well-being, it's certainly not a sole solution for treating mental health conditions...

October 11, 2023

There is no doubt improving physical health can have a significant positive impact on mental health – the two are closely connected. It's important to note that the relationship between physical and mental health is complex, and while improving physical health can have a positive impact on mental well-being, it's certainly not a sole solution for treating mental health conditions.

However, there is plenty of evidence that shows a clear relationship between the two, and in most cases physical health improvements can and do improve mental health.  Several mechanisms contribute to this relationship:

  • Release of Neurotransmitters: Physical activity prompts the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins. These chemicals are often referred to as "feel-good" neurotransmitters because they can enhance mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Stress Reduction: Regular exercise and physical activity can help reduce the body's physiological response to stress. It lowers the levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, leading to decreased feelings of stress and anxiety.
  • Better Sleep: Physical activity can improve sleep quality and duration. Adequate sleep is essential for maintaining good mental health, as sleep disturbances can lead to mood disorders and increased stress.
  • Enhanced Self-Esteem: Achieving fitness goals, whether it's weight loss, muscle gain, or improved endurance, can boost self-esteem and self-confidence. Feeling better about one's physical appearance and abilities can positively impact mental well-being.
  • Distraction and Relaxation: Engaging in physical activities provides a distraction from negative thoughts and worries, promoting relaxation and a sense of well-being. This can be especially beneficial for individuals dealing with conditions like anxiety or depression, common amongst any workforce.
  • Social Interaction: Physical activities can be social in nature, and social interaction can help combat feelings of loneliness and improve overall mental health by providing a sense of belonging and support.
  • Brain Health: Physical exercise has been shown to have neuroprotective effects, promoting the growth of new neurons and supporting brain health. This can enhance cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with conditions like dementia and depression.
  • Regulation of Brain Chemistry: Physical activity can help regulate the balance of neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain, which is crucial for mood stability. It can also reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to mood disorders.
  • Coping Mechanism: Engaging in physical activities can serve as a healthy coping mechanism for stress and emotional challenges. Instead of turning to unhealthy behaviours, such as excessive drinking or overeating, individuals may use exercise to manage their emotions and stress.

And there’s plenty of evidence to support this view.

Some studies revealed that physical activity is related to a “minimized risk of developing clinical depression” (Bingham). This was supported by a review which revealed that “exercise protects people against depression and it is an adjunctive and effective intervention to treat depression from mild to moderate levels” (Donaghy).

Donaghy’s study reviewed 11 other separate studies and revealed that “exercise training is an effective intervention strategy to mitigate depression”. In addition, “exercise is a complementary treatment strategy for mild and moderate depression, and can serve as a nonpharmacological treatment method to enhance cognitive functioning”.

The conclusion is unequivocal, an article in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2023) said it best: It is clear that employees benefit from physical exercise programs if they are given the appropriate opportunity to participate in physical exercise. They receive satisfaction from exercise, adopt healthy behaviors, and are accompanied by the subsequent activation of internal mechanisms that mobilize and motivate individuals to exercise more often. This eventually contributes to an active everyday life with rewarding benefits to their physical and mental health.

Again, let’s be clear - we’re not saying physical exercise is a cure for mental health conditions. A holistic approach is required and may include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes - including physical activity and a balanced diet - to promote mental well-being. But there are proven connections that show physical health can help.

That ‘physical activity’ is where we focus, and we believe that when offered in a way that is useful for your workforce, and with a diverse platform like The Fit & Wellness Hub, there’s no reason not to start immediately.

Talk to us now and see how easy it can be to offer your employees a world-class fitness platform they can use anywhere, anytime, On Demand. Give them the tools that are both effective and extremely inexpensive – in fact, you’ll make money from offering The Fit & Wellness Hub across your organisation.