May is National Mental Health Month, a time to bring awareness to an issue that is often surrounded by misconceptions and social stigma. According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Our mission here at ACE is to get people moving. It is widely known that exercise and regular movement can help maintain and improve physical health by controlling weight, increasing strength and building solid, durable bones. Those health benefits may seem obvious, but did you know that regular physical activity can also improve sleep and reduce tiredness, relieve stress, improve mood and boost energy levels? Alternatively, studies suggest that not enough physical activity is detrimental to our mental health and can lead to cognitive decline and an increased risk of developing depression.
The connection between mental health and physical activity is often overlooked, even though getting active plays a huge role in the well-being of mind, body and spirit. Participation in yoga has been shown to help ease both anxiety and depression. Workplace wellness programs have had similar results in helping employees handle stress and lead productive, healthy careers. Physical activity also helps children and adults with attention disorders by enhancing neural growth and development, and improving cognitive and behavioral functioning.
Mental health disorders are very common, impacting 1 in 5 Americans, and finding the right treatment plan is different for everyone. During a time when pharmaceuticals and healthcare costs are so high, it can take a village to support individuals in finding affordable and effective ways to manage the day to day aspects of mental health disorders. Certified fitness professionals should be a part of that team. ACE Certified Professionals are equipped with the knowledge and skills that, in conjunction with the support of proper medical and mental health experts, can help guide those with mental health conditions on a path to better wellness.
While physical activity may not be able to help all mental health conditions, it is clear that it can help alleviate several associated symptoms. Further collaboration between allied health professionals (such as counselors, therapists and social workers) and well-qualified fitness professionals will only enhance the number of support options available for those managing mental health disorders.
ACE readies fitness professionals, health coaches and other wellness experts to contribute to the national response to the obesity epidemic and other chronic diseases. We are working to evolve the healthcare system so the professions we represent may become part of patient-centered care teams and help far more people become physically active and stay healthy. Find out more about ACE’s Advocacy efforts.