Exercise can help mental health: Lift your mood in these dark times by getting active – Alastair Dalton

I’ve been revelling in the five consecutive days of sunshine we’ve just had in Glasgow – a brightness to focus on when we’re going through such dark days.

A combination of the horror in Ukraine and the mounting cost-of-living crisis seems to have rapidly eclipsed past fears over Covid that have dominated and transformed our lives for the past two years.

The ominous dread many of us feel is perhaps related to our individual powerlessness to do much tangibly about them, unlike with the pandemic, where we could take precautions to help mitigate its risks and impact.

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That makes it all the more important to do what we can to care for our mental health when we’re still coming to terms with what is happening in eastern Europe while also worrying about how we’ll be able to pay the bills in the face of mounting energy prices and rising inflation.

For me, it’s all about staying active. I find it helps my mental health as well as my physical well-being.

Enforced working from home when coronavirus hit knocked for six my daily activity, which I’d always felt is most effective when built into a routine.

Gone was the three-mile cycle to the office, with the step count topped up by walking around more than I would at home, along with trips to meetings and events.

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With WFH remaining my default for the immediate future – I’ve only been into our Glasgow and Edinburgh offices a handful of times since the pandemic started – I’ve found that building in physical activity to my day has been vital.

During the winter, with its short days, that’s had to be first thing – getting out for a walk, run or cycle before starting work.

I’ve also found that motivation in the form of training for the weekly 5km (three-mile) Parkrun event in a nearby park has been a great incentive in getting me out for a jog.

I’m now trying to push my endurance back towards the 10k level I used to achieve a couple of decades ago.

There is, of course, an argument for using such jaunts to become aware of your surroundings and take in the sounds of nature, but it’s also an opportunity to listen to music, podcasts, or even, dare I say it, the news.

For me, getting outside and getting moving is not the complete answer, but it helps.

Even when the weather is atrocious, there’s a great feeling of achievement in battling the elements and even getting soaked – but that might just be a personal legacy of being dragged out in all conditions as a child on family holidays in the north-west Highlands.

The one positive note about our current state of affairs is that the spring equinox is now little more than a week away, the days are getting longer and hopefully, warmth will gradually return, making getting outside more attractive.

But if you really can’t face that, during the original Covid lockdown, I found online fitness videos surprisingly addictive, and equally helpful in lifting my mood.

However, I find going out on the good days makes me more determined to brave the bad ones.

I know I’ll feel better for it.

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