R U OK? Day and the benefits of exercise to mental health

Jarrad Lawford
10 September - 5 min read

Today is R U OK? Day – and as 2020 has thrown many of us a curveball, it’s never been more important to highlight the importance of asking a friend, colleague, or loved one “are you okay?”

Some people do very well to mask their struggles, but a conversation can sometimes change a life. Adjusting the way you look after yourself can also do the same.

Since our team at Spenda have been exercising together, not only has it significantly helped our business grow culturally, but we are also directly reducing our exposure to mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression by simply blowing off some steam together.

In Australia alone, poor mental health at work is estimated to cost the economy over $12 billion each year, including over $200 million worth of workers compensation claims. 20% of the Australian population now experience a mental illness in any given year and this has spiked since COVID-19.

A recent HUNT study highlighted that 12% of cases of depression could have been prevented by just one hour of exercise per week, it’s why our Managing Director, Adrian Floate, has initiated programs designed to look after the mental health of his employees by offering multiple one-hour gym classes each week with our exceptional personal trainer, Adam Jeffery.

The owner of Gym8Q8 in Osborne Park, Western Australia currently works with dozens of clients throughout their workday to help boost their mental health and escape their day job.

“When it comes to walking into the gym it can immensely help people step away from the negativity found in the corporate world. We don’t give ourselves enough time during the day to release endorphins or create a better lifestyle to stay mentally and physically healthy,” Jeffery said.

“The pressure of our work lives and trying to stay on top of deadlines and targets can affect our personal lives. Getting into the gym and exercising with the right people helps change your frame of mind and can genuinely help save lives.”

Our MD, Adrian Floate, is also a strong advocate for mental health and the benefits of exercise.

“The daily grind of work and deadlines within a business can often lead to stress and mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression. I wanted to ensure that our team always has the availability of exercise to break up their workdays and provide some escape and relief to their workload,” said Floate.

“The opportunity to have a workout together not only builds our culture and friendships, but it’s a great way to blow off some steam and keep our minds just as healthy as our bodies with the added bonus of improving productivity.”

The benefits of exercising on your mental health:

  1. Helps to manage chronic stress. Exercise helps to reduce stress by regulating the release of cortisol. After exercise, the stress hormones drop and stress and anxiety fade away, leaving you in a more relaxed state for the rest of the day.
  2. Improved focus. Exercising before, during or after work can improve focus concentration, alertness, energy, decision making and multi-tasking ability.
  3. Better sleep patterns. Frequent exercise has been found to directly correlate to an increase of better sleep cycles. This includes more than 85% of total sleeping time in bed, falling asleep in less than 30 minutes, waking up no more than once per night and being awake for less than 20 minutes per night. Lack of sleep negatively affects brain functionality and mental health at work.
  4. Releases feel-good hormones. These secretions of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins during exercise directly reduce your exposure to anxiety, depression and stress at work.
  5. Reduces risk of cognitive decline. Aerobic exercise is directly associated with improvements in attention span and processing speed, executive function and even memory for people of all ages.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
National Alcohol and Other Drugs Hotline on 1800 250 015
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890
SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263
ReachOut at au.reachout.com

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