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Forums / Staying well / Exercise for mental health

Topic: Exercise for mental health

10 posts, 0 answered
  1. Carmen Lisa
    Carmen Lisa  avatar
    26 posts
    13 June 2015
    Every where I read info about depression and anxiety and also, most of the people I talk to suggest exercise to be extremely helpful. I have trouble doing the smallest things when I am struggling. It seems impossible to contemplate walking to the mail box, let alone 30 minutes of exercise. Why are there not exercise programs set up that don't cost a bunch of $$$ and don't rely on just my own motivation to get to? There are 10 billion things to not like about the gym. Fit people intimidate me. I'd just like to have a few people who get where I'm at to go walking together or maybe a gentle bicycle ride or a hit of tennis just for fun. Maybe some kind of coach who got mental illness who could help us keep going. Does this kind of thing exist? I can imagine that the majority of us on this site would be quite unfit. I have enough motivation to write this post, but will I do any exercise tomorrow? 
  2. Pixie15
    Valued Contributor
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    Pixie15 avatar
    627 posts
    14 June 2015 in reply to Carmen Lisa

    Hello Carmen Lisa,

    The Heart Foundation has a walking group program. If you do not have one in your area you could consider starting one yourself. Also when my partner was depressed I bought him a puppy and she got him out of bed and out the front door which I think helped him a lot. I think getting out in the sun on a regular basis is important for vitamin d production as well as everything else.

    I hope you find an exercise that suits you.


  3. Purpletop
    Purpletop avatar
    3 posts
    17 June 2015 in reply to Carmen Lisa

    Hi Carmen Lisa,

    I grew up as the original couch potato and forging notes to get out of PE.  I weaned myself off antidepressants 8 years ago and now use exercise as my coping strategy.  If I don't do any exercise my depression returns and I feel fat and useless.  The buzz I get carries me through.  I've found that if I plug my music in and focus on that it helps get me through my exercise routines. I'm a morning person so go to the gym when I know I'm at my best.  My other exercise outlet is Pilates where you'll find people of different abilities.  I've learnt to focus on getting the most out of my sessions without worrying about the people around me.  This was incredibly hard in the past.  I was the fat girl who was teased at school. 

    I hope you find the exercise that works for you. The hard part is starting.


  4. yarnartisan
    yarnartisan avatar
    33 posts
    17 June 2015 in reply to Carmen Lisa

    HI Carmen Lisa,

        I get what your saying about gyms and fit people being intimidating.I'm built for comfort not for speed.

    Free ways to excercise

    • In one of the other threads someone suggested about going out your front door and walking for ten minutes then turn and walk back. I was in a bad space at the time and I tried it and it worked to get me a little motivated.Increase how long you go for when youre ready.
    • I like to go to little coffee shack by the water. I park further away each time I go so I walk a bit further.
    • If listening to music doesn't help you exercise, try getting an audio book from your local library, and listening to that.
    • Don't know how big your back yard is or if you have one, but walk around it as many times as you feel able , watch your feet or count your steps, make it part meditation.

    Can you swim and no I don't mean laps and doing a "Thorpedo". I go to my local pool and do lengths of breastroke , and trust me I'm so slow the oldies pass me, or get a kickboard hold it in front and kick from one end to the other.Then lie on your back holding the board on your chest and go backwards (it's great your head's under the water and the world is peaceful) Again very relaxing. Or just go and walk laps. If you ring your pool and ask they will tell you when is a quieter time to come down if you want to avoid the fitness mob.

    Of course , you can do all of that swim stuff down the beach, if it's too cold go the op shop and get a cheap wetsuit and hey, shivering is exercise, it burns calories.

     My lovely GP (who also has mental health illnessess, so is walking the walk with us) once said to me it's about making the effort not the amount you do, she said don't set yourself big goals. She doesn't enjoy exercise either, so again gets it.5mins is better than nothing at all.

    If you get to the pool and only swim for ten minutes, fine, you went. If you find a set of stairs/steps somewhere and walk up them once , fine. If you can't leave the house, do some weights-empty the pantry contents on to the floor , then put it back again.You might find a hidden stash of chocolate you forgot about, BONUS.

    Do sidesteps or lunges up and down the hallway. Do pushups against the wall, leg raises in front of the tv. Have ou got a cat you can swing around the room?( I love  cats and have one , just kidding.)

     It's about making a start no matter how small.Don't trivialise any effort you make as useless just have a go.

    We all start somewhere.

    Try googling your local communtiy news pages or check your local papers, a lot of places have free walking groups and I know even my little rural town  has a local one that is part of the depression group for 18-25's( at 52 I don't quite make it)

    Good luck and hope this has been of some help.Any jokes i have made are not to make fun of where you at , cos I've been there too and no doubt will be again, but hey laughter or even just smiling is great exercise. And yes throwing something at the computer would also count as exercise as would swearing at my post. Take care of you,with best wishes and lots of hugs






    3 people found this helpful
  5. Carmen Lisa
    Carmen Lisa  avatar
    26 posts
    23 June 2015
    Thanks everyone for your ideas and encouragement. I guess I'm wondering how to get others around me who will help with motivation. I do like the ideas, I just need some buddies or a coach. I started a walking group a while back as there was none in my area, but that was before my most recent episode of not coping. It hasn't had the chance to take off yet and I feel so stressed about being the one to organise it, I either go because I feel responsible or I have cancelled. I did enjoy playing social basketball, but I'm still at least 6 months away from returning as I had a knee reconstruction. Yarnartisan, how do you get motivated to do things on your own? I've been so stuck this last while I haven't even been doing my rehab exercises for my knee. I know that exercise will help, but I struggle to have the energy to get from one room to the next. Often my anxiety feels crippling. Even writing a post on a forum makes me think I'd rather hide in a cupboard. 
  6. yarnartisan
    yarnartisan avatar
    33 posts
    30 June 2015 in reply to Carmen Lisa

    Hi Carmen Lisa,

    I did reply to your last post on the same day but it seems to have disappeared into the ether,love computers..... Anyway self motivation.

    Firstly I totally get about the knee complication, I've had a series of injuries , including two to the same knee over the last two years and yes working through pain and rebuilding strength is hard.

    With my last set of injuries, I went to a physiotherapy practice that has it's own hydrotherapy pool and rehab gym for small groups up to about ten people.It's been great not only from a recovery point of view, as it's supervised by an amazing physio and it's like having a personalised trainer adjusting everything for you.

    But from a mental health view  everyone else in the group is recovering from a surgery, an injury or improving their strength and health pre-surgery. I've found, (like BB members) they are supportive because they are on the same journey.Most health funds cover part of the cost at least.

    If your not in a health fund and/or money is an issue go join one of the low level/shallow water hydro classes at your local pool. Just let your instructor know your issues beforehand so she can let you know what's safe for you to do. I can pretty much guarantee you that there will be others in that class in the same situation injury wise as you. Plus your local hospital may do classes your dr or physio can send you to.Again you will probably find these other class members supportive.

    So anyway for myself ,from going to these classes and feeling the improvement physically and mentally I found the self motivation to do other stuff . Some weeks I do better than others, but I'm learning to give myself a break and that it's not the end of the world if have a day or two when I can't find the energy and need to sleep instead. I figure it's my body telling me to rest, hey there's always the next day.

    Good luck and I'm sorry my other post turned left at Alberquerqie and got lost.Naturally, it was a much better reply than this one.

    Take care of you and keep posting


    2 people found this helpful
  7. kittymojo
    kittymojo avatar
    2 posts
    1 July 2015 in reply to Carmen Lisa

    I’m another person who finds the gym pretty intimidating. However I did discover that I really enjoy exercise, and that it helps tremendously with my anxiety, so I have worked on other ways to get the exercise I need.

    Things that have helped me:  There are LOADS of free exercise programs, apps and guides out there on the web (for varying levels of fitness/equipment) – hit up SparkPeople, or Pinterest, or Youtube, or if you have a smartphone PlayStore.

     If you are happy to pay a little money there are infinite fitness dvds in every conceivable style.  

    Bodyweight training costs nothing and includes things like Yoga, Callisthenics, Pilates, Aerobics, Handbalancing, Parkour, martial arts and much much more. A set of resistance bands/tubes is only about $30, and it will be a while before you have exhausted all you can do with these two things alone.  


    Walking and jogging are free – so are a number of couch to 5 k training apps/programs/playlists. I discovered that I LOVE jogging (well my version of it, which involves shuffling slowly whilst the colour of beetroot) only recently. Plus it gets me outside which is great for me.

    A pedometer is cheap and just tracking your steps can be pretty motivating.  

    There are innumerable fitness communities/bulletin boards and forums where you can motivate and be motivated by others (or even compete if that is more your thing) – SparkPeople, Fitocracy, Nerdfitness, Myfitnesspal and many more.    

    Getting real people around you can be harder, but a lot of local community houses have walking groups, and many have other fitness classes too such as tai-chi. And has a bunch of walking groups, so you might be able to find something there.  

    As for coaches – some support services will help you work on fitness/health goals, and personal trainers/life coaches are FANTASTIC for exactly this sort of thing, though of course they can be pricey. 

  8. thisaquarian
    thisaquarian avatar
    51 posts
    9 July 2015 in reply to Carmen Lisa

    Hi Carmen Lisa, I am with you on the feeling of gyms.  I will never be a gym lover, and I am okay with that. I love many other things which help me.

    Remember Karen Gatt of "The Clothesline Diet" ? She could not even walk around her clothes line at first but she set herself little goals.  It was this which inspired me to become a walker years ago. I literally set myself a goal to walk to my mailbox and back. (It sounds simple, but it was down a flight of stairs and about 300m away as I lived in a unit complex. I normally checked my mail on the way home to save doing TWO trips of the stairs!) Once I'd achieved this 3 x a week, I set another goal of walking twice to the letterbox. I think my neighbours thought I was crazy. I didn't care... I set another goal after that to walk to the next block.  (So I had to walk down the stairs, 300m + a block, and then back again)... and that lead to me being able to walk for at least 10 minutes before turning back and heading home.

    The biggest thing was that I didn't push myself to walk fast, count steps, etc. I would just enjoy looking at different houses and pretty gardens.  Seeing things from a different perspective. I just did it for the enjoyment, not the fitness.

    2 people found this helpful
  9. Anita C
    Anita C avatar
    1 posts
    8 July 2018 in reply to Carmen Lisa

    Hi Carmen Lisa,

    I know your post in 2015 is a few years old now but I just had to reply to it. There IS an exercise program in Sydney called Mood Active that is specifically for people battling depression and anxiety. The coach and founder himself has bipolar II and is incredibly supportive, he started the program because he saw the need for an exercise program specifically to help people with anxiety and depression get back on their feet. I joined them in 2015 and it was instrumental in my recovery. They are so so understanding and supportive. They understand the struggle with motivation and provide a very encouraging and safe place. I knew I could turn up without judgement and without the intimidation of a loud packed gym.

    I hope this has been helpful even though a few years late!



    1 person found this helpful
  10. Meowface
    Meowface avatar
    68 posts
    14 July 2018 in reply to Anita C
    Wish we had sonething like that in Melbourne.

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