July 15, 2011

Mental Fitness Leads to Physical Fitness

While research does suggest that
exercise can help depression, can
one stick to an exercise program
if one is depressed? Based upon
my own work in the area of exercise
and mental health, I'm thinking it
is more complicated than that.
While we continue to hear about the importance of physical fitness, many of us struggle with "just doing it".  I hear so many people blaming themselves and calling themselves lazy, unmotivated, and so on because they aren't catching the exercise bug that (apparently) is going around.

Well I am here to tell you that physical fitness is secondary to mental fitness.  You cannot adopt an exercise regime unless you are mentally fit and ready.  Interesting, eh? How many people could save themselves stress if they were aware of this? How many fitness and health professionals need to hear this message? It isn't as simple as getting out there and thinking positively. We have to enjoy a baseline of emotional health before we can start benefiting from the motivation and commitment that stems for it.

Without emotional health (or mental fitness) we may feel depressed, stressed out, burned out, sad, angry, lonely, overwhelmed, hopeless, or many other negative feelings.  I'm sure you have experienced a bad day or two when the thought of a workout makes you wanna dive under the desk and turn off the lights (and there's nothing wrong with that).  What would it be like to feel like that all the time? Many do and many beat themselves up about it wondering why they can't "just do it" like everyone else (of course the stats show that more people are feeling this way than enjoying daily physical activity). 

As a health promoter and behaviour change specialist, I can't stress enough the importance of your mental well-being before starting a lifestyle change. If you are feeling any of the feelings I noted above you have some choices to make. You can either work through them yourself or go to a counsellor to help you work through them. Your mental cloudiness could be the result of chronic stress or something that could be easily changed. With the help of a counsellor, you may find yourself in the sun sooner than you think.
Take some time and read all the words
above. Although they may appear very
positive, to the person struggling to
keep it together, it may just be more
of a reminder of their struggle and not
a motivational tool to get them up and
running.  I particularly like the "easy" and
"thin" reference.

Ultimately, if you want to be successful at your lifestyle changes (sleeping better, daily exercise, eating more veggies, weight loss, and the like) the first thing you must consider is your mental fitness. Trust me on this one. Not only do I work in the field, I have experienced the effects of depression on my daily lifestyle practices first hand. Let's just say feeling like you want to crawl in a hole and pull it in after you has its' negative influences on your desire to eat well and exercise.  It also doesn't help when you hear messages about just getting off the couch or making "simple" changes to your diet and exercise is good for you.

Just today, I read an article that listed about 10 tips to weight loss (summer weight loss I might add...a typical article that suggests it is possible to get tight and toned in 2 months). They were the same old tips with the same old message of "do this and do that". There remains a gap between offering tips to do it and tips on how to do it. So when someone struggling to keep it together tries a few of these tips and it doesn't work, the sense of failure (in my opinion) is a cost that outweighs any of the benefit of trying. 

For those feeling overwhelmed with life, please give yourself permission to stop "should'ing" all over yourself and start focusing on the cause of your feelings. I promise, once the clouds clear and you feel better, you will be motivated to eat well and go for a walk. Take care of the mind and the body will follow.

That's all I got.


  1. Yes it is rightly being said that the mind fitness is more important than the physical fitness. Because mind controls the body, and if your mind is not healthy then how can your body would be.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Fitness Club;

    You are bang on! Maybe one day we will see a real mind/body class instead of just the yoga and pilates we see today.

    Or maybe still...a class in a fitness club designed solely for mindfulness...I just blew my brain.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment!


  3. fitness is game of mind and body...mind in good condition means fit will be getting fit body from the exercise...always do exercise with a clear mind could help to achieve our body fitness.


  4. Thanks for your comment, Adam;
    Very wise words. I wonder, however, how many people actually exercise with a clear mind. Many of us workout to clear our minds. It's almost like the question; which came first..the chicken or the egg.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I wish you the best in health.