There is an extensive and continually growing field of research which demonstrates the beneficial impact of physical activity on mental health. I enjoy providing psychoeducation around this topic while working with my clients, particularly young adults. Individuals typically experience many transitions associated with school, work, family, health, finances, etc. during their 20’s and 30’s. These transitions often bring about stress, both good and bad, and learning how to manage any distressing emotions associated with this stress through regular physical activity can be beneficial.
I think it is important to communicate to my clients some of the science behind physical activity and the correlation to mental health. I’ve also found it important to message to my clients that there are many forms of physical activity and choosing what works best for each individual body type and unique life situation is imperative. For example, I’ve helped clients with injuries and/or health conditions find activities that fit their specific needs. I’ve worked with parents around finding ways to incorporate exercise into their busy schedules. I’ve connected low-income clients with free or reduced-cost gyms in their schools and neighborhoods. I’ve provided clients with resources related to activities or events in the community that fit their particular interests. I’ve discussed how physical activities when done in groups can build a sense of community. I’ve also spoken with clients about how experiencing distressing emotions can cause us to want to stay sedentary, however, this is when we need to engage in physical activity the most. I have enjoyed modeling the importance of physical activity by holding some of my sessions in a park or on a hike.
As I look back at my own life, engaging in regular sports and exercise has been extremely beneficial in helping me get through major life transitions. These activities allowed me to take my mind off of daily stressors and focus my energy into a healthy outlet. I’ve had to modify which activities I engage in due to injury, and through that I have found enjoyment in various other activities.