More exercise helps our emotional health – up to a point!

It is pretty widely known and accepted that taking some physical exercise can boost our sense of emotional well-being: stimulating the endorphins in the brain and all that. That would certainly be our experience as fully qualified counsellors working with clients in East Sussex.

Now researchers in the US have done a huge study – with about 1.2 million people – to try to understand more of what is going on. This study, done at Yale University, included all types of physical activity: childcare, housework, gardening, running, and being a gym bunny, for example.

It showed that if people were active for 45 minutes a session they had about 1.5 days more per month of good mental health compared to those who exercised for less than 10 minutes. If people exercised between 3 and 5 times a week they had about 1.5 days more per month of good mental health compared to those who exercised fewer than three times.

But curiously, the research appears to show that, at least in terms of our emotional well-being, we can overdo it in terms of physical exercise. It seems that those exercising for longer than 90 minutes or more than five times a week actually have worse emotional health than those who are more moderate in their physical activity. In other words, it seems that we can overdo it.

It is not clear why this should be. Maybe it is something about getting the right balance: if we are out running too much or going to too many spin classes, we will have less time to spend socialising, having fun and just relaxing. As therapists counselling in Bexhill, Hastings, Eastbourne and other parts of the county, we would often been encouraging clients to get that balance right, because in combination these various activities improve their chances of building emotional resilience against all that

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