Each May, America observes Mental Health Month, or National Mental Health Awareness Month, to promote understanding of the physical and psychological benefits associated with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Health isn’t merely the absence of a particular disease or disorder, and it’s not just a physical state. There is an unbreakable link between a healthy mind and overall wellness, adding truth to the old cliché “you only look as good as you feel.” The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is “Minding Your Health,” encouraging everyone to assess their daily habits and coping strategies to take steps toward a healthy lifestyle.
A 2012 American Psychological Association report found that nearly seven in 10 Americans experience physical symptoms of stress including anger, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, and disrupted sleeping habits. Additionally, the report states that while 60% of Americans have attempted to reduce their stress, only 37% believe they did so successfully. That’s where the benefits of healthy and active living come into play. Physical activity, proper nutrition, social connectedness, adequate sleep and responsible choices regarding alcohol use not only yield physical benefits, but can help promote recovery from stress and prevent it from leading to more serious conditions.
Stress is linked to a multitude of chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and more. Exercise is one way to help beat the effects of stress while promoting long-term physical and mental health. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by your increasing workload or agitated after long hours on the job, getting physically active can boost your mood and energy-level while improving overall wellness. Aerobic exercise, continuous and intense activity that stimulates oxygen intake and blood circulation, helps counter the effects of stress on your mind and body. Next time you’ve had a tough day, go for a run around the deck with a few shipmates, or ride your bike around base. The sense of calm and decrease in tension you may feel is the result of your body regulating stress hormones and releasing endorphins (natural stress-busters), enabled by the increased circulation from your aerobic adventure. Weight training (a form of anaerobic exercise) builds muscular strength and bone density, and boosts metabolism. By adding it to your regimen, you’re promoting long-term health—combatting obesity, heart disease and more—while building physical strength and a stronger mind.
Though exercise can help you unwind during stressful times, make it a daily habit to maximize mental and physical health benefits. You don’t need an elaborate gym to get active! Check out the latest tips from Navy Physical Readiness and the Active Living resources from Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center. Making small changes to your routines, like a short workout during lunchtime, will get you on the right track to stay mentally and physically fit.