I was recently given the opportunity to fly to Portland and give a talk about the importance of mental health as it relates to fitness. Snap Fitness has partnered with Bring Change to Mind to make mental health a priority within their fitness system and they kicked that off by donating the proceeds of their event, “Don’t Quit Your Fit” to our High School program. The workout was dedicated to combating what is known at the gym as “National Quitters Day,” the two-week mark into January, where statistically-speaking, the majority of people abandon their New Year resolution to exercise.
It is imperative we take as much care of our mental health as we do our physical health.
Fitness has been proven in many instances to relieve some symptoms of mental illness and reduce severity. In conjunction with proper treatment, it can be incredibly effective at keeping mental health stabilized. Fitness releases endorphins that boost positivity and feelings of happiness and contentment. It also helps maintain focus on a task – much like meditation – and works to calm the mind and steady the heartbeat. Plus, it boosts brain growth hormone, the stuff responsible for helping create new neural pathways in the brain. This can possibly combat the effects mental illness has, such as the brain not performing optimally because it is so often in survival mode.
Taking care of mental health is not only for people with mental illness, either. Chronic stress causes just as much damage, if not, more, on our brains and our bodies. This is the kind of stress that seems to have no end, no solution, nor reward once overcome. Financial instability, toxic situations, bad relationships, and an endless workload can contribute to brain problems like confusion or memory loss, headaches, exhaustion, and a taxed immune system.
The event itself, featured a talk by yours truly, and then a fun High Intensity Interval Training Workout led by Snap Fitness, complete with thumping music and enthusiastic trainers. The crowd was on their feet within minutes and getting into it. Unfortunately, I had a shoulder injury so I could not participate in the workout portion, but everyone was fantastic and friendly. I even got to walk away with a sweet swag bag of goodies!
I have hope that everyone who would brave an early Saturday morning in January to work out will not quit their fit this year, because those three things: early, Saturday, January, are enough to sent most people back under their warm covers.
It is such a long-overdue leap forward to have the fitness community become aware of how mental health effects fitness and vice-versa. I believe in the future, we will not only prescribe pills, but physical therapy as well. This is a great start.
I can’t thank Bring Change to Mind and Snap Fitness enough, because on a personal level, I made a shift. As I was jotting my speech down, it hit me how I need to become a voice for making health and fitness accessible to everyone. People with obstacles, mental illness, chronic issues and people at all socioeconomic levels. Health is not simply, “do your squats and eat your vegetables.” It should not be something that only people who eat avocados on the daily and have expensive gym memberships get to be a part of. This industry needs these unheard voices. It needs real solutions. I’m excited to embark on my own mission to bring change to mind by filling these gaps.