It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and we’ve been highlighting the positive effects exercise can have on mental well-being.
We recently sat down with Richmond regular and fitness fanatic Bridget Hunt, who uses exercise as a way to stay mentally healthy. She’s conquered numerous marathons and other endurance events, so she knows as well as anyone the impact working out has on the mind.
“I was diagnosed as bipolar 22 years ago, and the primary reason I exercise is to keep well mentally,” Bridget said. “I was offered medication but I didn’t take it because I’ve also got kidney disease.
“As well as the physiological benefits, there are the mental and social benefits of exercising as part of a group or going to a fitness class. I’m naturally introverted, so that tribal belonging of going to a running club or meeting a group of friends for a workout helps me to feel less alone.”
We are all familiar with the high you get from endorphins after you finish a workout, and for some people that feeling is a vital part of staying in a good mind-set.
“People who suffer with my problem have periods of taking action, achieving things and doing stuff,” Bridget continued. “But the opposite is when you flat-line and can’t get out of bed in the morning. Exercise brings it into balance.
“There’s definitely a happy zone where exercise helps tremendously, although I have to be mindful of over-exercising, which can tip me the wrong way. I have a very addictive personality and in the past I have been fearful of getting addicted to working out.
“There’s a happy medium for me where I do something every day, whether it’s yoga or a walk or something else aerobic, and it really helps me.
“I love Digme because the moment I walked through the door I was made to feel part of the family. It’s non-threatening, and since day one I’ve always had a real sense that the staff are there for me and want me to enjoy it. I’ve been to a lot of fitness studios and it’s unlike anywhere else.”
Bridget’s tips for anyone struggling with mental health are:
Go for a walk. Start with that and work your way from there.
Take a look at your diet. Sugar is like alcohol in that it gives you highs and lows. Take small steps to eat more healthily.
If you don’t know what else to do, phone the Samaritans. They are amazing.
Know that you’re not alone and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Pop into the Digme Richmond studio or come and see me in Danieli – I’m always ready to give a warm hello!