Exercise and Mental Health

I was supposed to be leading a workshop next month for the Centre for Confidence & Well-being. They had planned a conference in Glasgow on the theme of physical activity and positive mental health. As part of the conference there were to be a number of physical activities and I was leading two groups who would walk from the conference venue in Glasgow’s Merchant City to the People’s Palace Museum at Glasgow Green, probably about a fifteen minute walk. At the museum they would hear from a number of speakers about community physical activities, including gardening. Unfortunately, the full-day conference has been canceled because of lack of numbers. It will go ahead as an afternoon event, without workshops but still with the main speakers, Professor Ken Fox and Professor Nanette Mutrie.

I received an e-mail this morning from the Centre’s Chief Executive, Carol Craig, apologising for the cancellation and pointing out that this is the first time in the Centre’s five-year history that this has happened. As she explains, part of it may be down to the time of year. In Scotland we have just finished the holiday season and people may not have had time to plan to attend the event. It is a great shame.

As a runner, I am well aware of the psychological benefits of physical activity. I am training to run a 10K with my daughter at the start of next month, in fact just a four days before the conference. The weather in this part of Scotland has been cool and damp for the past few weeks and I have had to train sometimes on very wet days. Thirty years ago, when I ran marathons and had a full head of hair, I actually liked running in the rain. Recently, as I have lost most of my hair, I have found that rain can be painful on my scalp and I have been more reluctant to train in poor weather. Last week, knowing that the race is imminent, I felt obliged to set out on a wet, windy morning. Although the first mile was a bit of a trial, I was soon into my stride and forgot the horrible weather around me. When I arrived home, even before my shower, my wife remarked on the grin on my face and the glow around me. That lasted for the rest of the day and, in fact, until I had my next run on Saturday. And the glow from Saturday’s run (this is Monday) which took place in sunshine, is still there.

The speakers at the conference will be presenting research evidence which proves that, for most of us, physical activity is not only good for our bodies but for our minds. My running experience confirms that. And I know that it is not only running. My wife finds gardening incredibly therapeutic. If you can do it, try some physical exercise. You’ll be much better for it.

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