Fitness Programs and Mental Health Literacy

By Danielle Terpstra, MS, EP-C, Wellness Consultant, AllOne Health

“Healthy mind, healthy body,” is a common phrase that captures the relationship between our mental and physical health. It’s translated from the Latin phrase, Mens sana in corpore sano.

Mental health literacy encompasses the knowledge and beliefs surrounding mental illnesses that can aid in their prevention, recognition, and management.

From the lens of “healthy mind, healthy body,” we can consider mental health literacy to exist in a mutually beneficial relationship with healthy movement.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 1 in 4 Americans aged 18 and older suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder each year. Equally staggering is the reported 11.5% of youth experiencing severe major depression.

Considering the CDC reports that only approximately 28% of Americans meet the daily physical activity guidelines and the well-documented association between physical activity and mental health, an appropriate intervention is necessary.

Achieving the recommended amount of daily physical activity results in decreased feelings of depression, fatigue, anxiety, and low feelings of self-worth. It improves one’s overall mood, mind-body connection, and socialization, resulting in a positive impact on mental health literacy.

The Impact of a Sedentary Lifestyle on Mental Health

With our sedentary lifestyles, how then do we bridge the gap between physical activity and mental health literacy? Consider the following:

Improve the physical fitness of our youth. The importance of mobility begins when life begins. The expecting mother’s physical activity while the child is in utero has a lifelong impact on their metabolic health. Providing an environment that allows for healthy movement throughout infancy and beyond is equally important. Keeping the focus off body size and on fun, age-appropriate activities will allow the child to develop a positive understanding of their body, neuro-muscular coordination, and confidence.

Focus on feelings. Exercise and sports can sometimes elicit negative feelings, such as anger or fear. Focus instead on movement that brings about happiness and joy. Find gratitude in the ability to move. Acknowledge negative feelings that arise and bring awareness to the idea that self-encouragement and positive feelings during and following physical activity will yield powerful rewards.

Consider the level of challenge presented. We grow when we have appropriate levels of challenge that promote feelings of progress rather than defeat. Adequate challenges help to improve self-concept and efficacy.

Bring social awareness into fitness programming. Whether you join a team or simply meet up with a good friend for a regular walk, consider how your social wellness can benefit from movement with others. There are many virtual options if your local options do not fit your schedule or preferences.

The interrelation of movement and mental health literacy cannot be ignored. There is a clear need for appropriate interventions to take place across the lifespan that spark an interest in movement. How will you do your part to bring about change both personally and impactfully?

If you’re looking for additional help, reach out to your Assistance Program for Member Support. If your organization is considering a Wellness Program, AllOne Health has Wellness Solutions to fit your needs and goals.