Let’s talk about physical wellbeing

Steffi Maranan

When we talk about wellbeing, the first things that usually come to mind are our mental and emotional health. While these things are extremely important, people often forget that physical health also plays an important role in our overall wellbeing and is interconnected with our mental health too.

Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, which can result in an increased risk of some conditions – for example psoriasis, an auto-immune condition commonly triggered by stress. It’s therefore important to consider how our physical health can impact our mental wellbeing and what we can do about it.

The impact of physical health on mental health

As previously mentioned physical and mental health are interconnected, and it’s good to understand why and how they are:

  • Research shows that doing exercise results in the release of feel-good chemicals, called endorphins, in the brain. Even a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood
  • Studies on adults who are employed have found that people who are highly active often have lower stress rates compared to those who aren’t as active
  • It was found that there’s roughly a 20–30% lower risk of experiencing depression, for people who exercise daily
  • Studies have found that people who participate in physical activity typically have greater self-esteem. This relationship has been found in children, adolescents, young adults, adults and older people, and across both men and women
  • Physical activity may enhance sleep quality which in turn improves wellbeing. A recent survey collected objective physical activity data and responses to questions on sleep from 3081 adults and found that higher levels of physical activity were associated with fewer reports of feeling overly sleepy during the day and less difficulty concentrating when tired

During a time where many of us may be struggling with our mental health due to lockdown and uncertainty, it’s important to look at other avenues that can help to alleviate any mental struggles and put us in the best position to feel good.

In particular, stress is a key theme within the workplace – and physical activity can act as a good reliever and outlet for any built up tension or pressure.

Don’t neglect physical wellbeing in your organisation

While mental health is extremely important, and many organisations are beginning to focus on mental wellbeing initiatives, don’t neglect physical wellbeing and the impact that it has on employees.

Physical activity and wellbeing should be seen as a fundamental and desirable part of our lives – not a chore or an extra ‘add on’ to our to do lists. There are numerous ways to keep active and it’s all about finding what works for you – people may prefer walking or weightlifting or even yoga. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or too strenuous.

Push physical wellness agendas

There are countless ways to support and enhance physical wellness within your organisation that can benefit everyone. It’s also important to note that not everyone is able-bodied so initiatives and ideas should be as inclusive as possible. Some examples include:

  • Ensuring healthier lunch menus
  • Encouraging team sport socials like football
  • Charity and fundraising events around physical activities
  • Encouraging employees to make small changes in their daily routine like taking the stairs rather than the lift and cycling or walking to work where possible
  • Communicating across the organisation the benefits of looking after your physical health at work.

A faster, simpler way to measure wellbeing

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