More people than ever before now consider safeguarding their mental health as a key reason for exercising, according to a new study.
Exercise has for a long time been linked with beneficial effects on the body, not least on chemicals in the brain that make us feel better about ourselves, in turn improving mood and helping to combat the symptoms of poor mental health.
As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation and forced people across the country to adapt to a less connected and more isolated life, research has shown a spike in interest for exercising at home and outdoors as a means of coping with a new normal.
Commissioned by sports nutrition brand bulk, a new study now builds upon this evolving attitude toward exercise.
According to the study's findings, over half of people now exercise to help with their mental wellbeing, with almost as many people now exercising for mental health benefits as for physical benefits.
Looking at the underlying reasons for this overall shift, improving mental health and wellbeing (41%), to feel good about oneself (39%), and to relieve stress and anxiety (38%) are now the leading reasons for exercising, alongside improving physical health (43%).
This new mindset does differ slightly between age groups and genders: 43% of women exercise in order to improve their mental health compared with 38% of men, while adults younger than 35 are most likely to exercise to help their mental health (72% vs an average of 59%).
Perhaps the most telling result from the survey though comes in the form of the 76% of respondents who say that exercise improves their mental health.
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“We know that this year has been tough for a lot of people, and we’re encouraged to hear that a focus on health and fitness has been a positive way for people to get through it," said Elliot Dawes, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer of bulk. "It’s great to hear that so many said that moving more and embracing exercise has had a positive impact on their mental health."
Adam Rossiter Co-Founder and CEO of bulk added: "This past year has forced us all to question how we workout, why we workout and the benefit of leading a healthy lifestyle. Now more than ever we believe that sport, health, fitness and nutrition are for everyone - no matter who you are, what you do, or how you do it - and we want to help switch even more people on to the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle.”
The figures from the study go hand-in-hand with other recent research into the nation's evolving relationship with exercise.
According to a survey conducted by AXA Health, 4 in 10 people now see having good mental health as the foundation for good physical health.