Written By: Michael Laverriere, MS, CSCS, New Hampshire National Guard, Strength & Conditioning Coach
Recognizing Mental Health Month in January, many National Guard units will emphasize mental well-being's crucial role for service members and their families. This paper highlights the significant interplay between physical activity, mental health, and nutrition. It explores the profound benefits of regular exercise and balanced nutrition in bolstering mental health and resilience. It offers insights essential for the demanding lives of our service members and their families.
An often neglected component of our mental well-being relates to our physical body and what we do with it. While each individual has a unique relationship with physical activity and exercise, the benefits of simply moving our bodies regularly cannot be overlooked. Plenty of evidence suggests improvements in feelings of self-worth, confidence, motivation, mood, and a decrease in anxiety.
Self-efficacy can be defined as the belief in oneself to accomplish the task at hand. Many people struggle with the mental barrier that prevents participation in some form of activity. Exercise is a great way to improve one’s self-esteem and self-image. Frequently accomplishing small feats of activity creates a huge sense of accomplishment. This creates a compilation of successful experiences with exercise, improving motivation to do more.
Many forms of cardiovascular exercise have been shown to influence changes in our mental state. Exercises such as walking, biking, rowing, swimming, running, and hiking all increase circulation or blood flow. This total body increase in blood flow impacts our brain dramatically. The increased blood flow stimulates parts of the brain that are linked to motivation, mood, and memory formation, all of which help combat feelings of anxiety and depression.
Social interaction is the final element of exercise and activity that contributes to our mental well-being. When individuals face a common challenge within a group, it fosters a supportive community. This sense of community heightens motivation, as individuals are inspired to exert effort in the collective pursuit of success. Challenges appear less daunting when shared with others. Together, there is a shared sense of achievement in overcoming obstacles collaboratively. As a result of these social interactions, mood is elevated, tiredness is diminished, and mental alertness is improved.
So, what does all of this mean?
Get out and move your body in any way you see fit. If you can, have a partner join you, or find a group. The frequent triumphs from overcoming adversity will improve many facets of your mental state.
Want to help your team get moving with structured guidance and health education? SiteWell Solutions provides fitness, nutrition, and mental resilience support for high-risk industries such as the military, construction, first responders, and healthcare. Get started by taking our Workforce Risk Assessment for complimentary recommendations to help your team move and feel their best.
SiteWell Solutions supports HR, Safety, and Business Leaders in high-risk industries. We focus on preventing injuries, enhancing employee morale, and cutting unnecessary costs. Our specialized services include work hardening programs, occupation-specific conditioning, pre-habilitation, performance nutrition, and mental resilience training. We work collaboratively with businesses to fortify your workforce, boost productivity, and build a safety culture grounded in physical and mental resilience.
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