Assessing and monitoring physical health
Your physical wellbeing contributes to your mental wellbeing, so getting your physical health checked and monitored is a good way to help improve your wellbeing. Well planned physical health monitoring can make a real difference.
Physical health conditions may cause or contribute to your mental health symptoms; therefore it is important to have a good idea of how healthy you are. Assessing your physical health is just as important as assessing your mental health as this can:
Identify and treat any early signs of physical health problems;
Prevent or treat any physical health problems associated with medicines you take for your mental health condition.
Risks to physical health
Cardiometabolic health is a measure of risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease or stroke. We are all at risk of developing cardiometabolic illness, however some factors can increase that risk such as family history or medication taken for your mental health condition. Some of these risks cannot be changed e.g. as you get older your risk increases, however the good news is that there are risks you can change. Most physical health conditions are preventable. Healthier lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise can be important ways to lower your risk. Talk to your GP or your Mental Health Team if you have any concerns about your medication and physical health.
If you have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI) such as schizophrenia or psychosis, your GP should ensure you have a regular Annual Health Check. As part of an annual health check, your: smoking status, lifestyle, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, blood glucose (sugar) regulation and cholesterol (blood lipids) will be checked and discussed.
If you are aged between 40-74 you can receive an NHS Health Check at your GP. The NHS Health Check is offered every 5 years and is a check of your heart health looking at your vascular or circulatory health and works out your risk of developing preventable illnesses. Think of your NHS Health Check as being your “midlife MOT”. It checks that some of your body’s most important systems are all running smoothly. Among other things, your blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI will all be checked and your results given to you.
If you have not received a letter from your GP about an Annual Health Check or NHS Health Check, you can make an appointment yourself. If you feel worried or anxious about making an appointment, find out some GP appointment top tips to help you prepare.
Improving your physical and mental health and wellbeing
Getting active and eating a balanced diet that includes more fibre, a reduction of saturated fat and salt, can help you reduce your risk of cardiometabolic health. Giving up smoking and drinking less alcohol can also help to reduce your risk.
Benefits of exercise
We’re all aware of the benefits of exercise to our physical health, with strong evidence showing that being physically active can help to lead a healthier and happier life. But research also shows that physical activity can improve mental wellbeing, boosting self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing the risk of depression and stress, as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There is evidence to show that there is a link between being physically active and having good mental wellbeing; this is feeling good about yourself and about the world around you.
Adults should aim to be active every day, but this doesn’t mean spending hours in the gym if this isn’t what appeals to you. There are so many exercises to try, whether this is walking, running or jogging, swimming, cycling, tennis, or a gym class. Find an exercise which you enjoy and try to introduce this to your daily routine; one of the easiest ways to get active is by walking or cycling instead of using the car.
How does exercise help mental wellbeing?
Research shows that physical activity can help to maintain and improve mental wellbeing in a number of ways, reducing depression and anxiety, amongst other things. Physical activity releases hormones in the brain called endorphins. These help to positively change our mood, wellbeing and how we feel about our surroundings, which in turn brings about a greater sense of self-esteem.
It’s particularly important to improve physical activity if you struggle with your mental health, as evidence has shown that people with mental health challenges are more likely to:
- Be overweight (although this can often be a side effect of taking medication)
- Have a poor diet
- Be a smoker
- Drink too much alcohol
There are many benefits to your mental health by being more physically active, such as:
- Reduced stress
- An increase in confidence and self-esteem
- Reduced anxiety, therefore increasing feelings of happiness
- Reduced risk of depression
- Being able to think more clearly
- Feelings of calm due to having more space and time to think things over
Find out more about how smoking can impact your physical health.
Reduces stigma and discrimination
As well as physical activity and exercise having great benefit to mental health, it also helps to challenge the stigma and discrimination around mental health too! Many people have said that joining exercise groups and clubs has helped to break down barriers and raise awareness of mental health.
‘Running for Recovery’
Take a look at our online course all about how running can aid wellbeing and recovery. Head over to the online learning site, create an account for free and discover how running can help you.
Running for Recovery: Online Resource
Our free online course ‘Running for Recovery’ explores the health and wellbeing benefits of running.
To explore this resource, and more, head over to our e-learning site where you will need to create a free account.
Real Life Experience
When my mind is really busy and I can’t grasp on to thoughts as they whizz through my head, I have found a great deal of comfort from running. Pulling on my trainers and going out in the cold, I feel removed from the hustle and bustle of my daily life yet connected to the Earth somehow. I tell myself ‘just one foot in front of the other.’ The rhythmically pounding of my feet on the pavement combined with the soothing sound of my exaggerated breathing brings my thoughts into the minute. I am there in the moment, feeling the burn in my leg muscles and escaping the worry and anxiety in my head. Nothing matters other than getting to the next lamppost, the next corner, the park. If I can just get through this, I can get through anything.
Once I return home after 1 mile or 10, I feel proud, I have done something, achieved something. I am not worthless, my body is strong, my head can be too. Running is no quick fix magic cure but I know I can rely on the fact that my mood is always better afterwards than when I set off, and my mind always much calmer.