Alison Binns, MYPAS Board member, shares her journey going from someone who hadn’t run before to someone who enjoys running regularly. Alison reflects on the importance of exercise and its benefits for your mental health and wellbeing.
I started running regularly in my early 40s. It was so hard at the start, the first 10 minutes of every walk/run seemed impossible (and sometimes still do) but with time I learnt how to, in all weather, regardless of mood and other life demands. Almost every single run lifts my mood, helps me think clearly, boosts my energy and makes me stronger – and that doesn’t even include the benefits of running with family or friends. Like excellent chat (yes, even while running). You don’t have to be fast or do races to feel the power of running. If you run, whatever you look like, however you do it, you’re a runner.
Exercise is a fantastic way to build your mental wellbeing. It reduces stress, builds confidence and self-esteem. It gives you energy even though it’s tiring. It can calm you and help you to sleep better, reduce physical symptoms of anxiety like racing heart, headaches, stomach upsets. It can teach you how strong you are and shows you that you can overcome challenges, not just in exercise but in life. It isn’t a miracle cure but it can help people overcome life difficulties and sometimes replace harmful lifestyle choices like overeating, smoking or too much alcohol.
Running is accessible to everyone – if you can walk you can learn to run. As a beginner you only need some trainers, comfortable clothes and a playlist. You can start from your front door, run alone or join a club. Most clubs are really friendly and supportive, welcome every ability, age, shape and size, background.
Lots of people are put off exercising because they worry about others looking at them and judging them, because they don’t have fancy gear or look like sporty people. In fact, no-one really cares how you look. You can be invisible to other people or they may even admire brave you are.
People worry about how to find time to exercise. YouTube is full of 10 minute yoga/HIIT (brief intense workouts)/boxercise/dance routines you can do at home with no equipment. A brisk 10 minute walk can change your day. It’s pretty satisfying to squeeze in a quick workout to power you all day. Or some yoga to wind you down before you sleep.
Others worry that sport will injure them. As long as you start easy, build up slowly, learn to understand your body and take recovery time, you’re more likely to end up less sore, stronger, with better balance and fewer injuries than inactive people. New habits can take weeks or months to develop (with good and bad days along the way) but worth the rewards when they become part of your life.
- Couch to 5K – an easy way to introduce yourself to running that starts off with a few minutes of running and builds up.
- Local clubs: Parkrun (Vogrie) and JogScotland.
- Looking after your mental health with exercise – Mental Health Foundation
I hope this inspires you to make the first step towards making exercise a habit and maybe changing your life. And remember that you can seek help with your mental health and wellbeing from MYPAS, Midlothian Access Point and your GP.
I’ve been on the MYPAS Board about a year. I’m a local GP, we recommend MYPAS services to children and young people and are aware of how excellent they are, but also that there have been long waiting times. MYPAS has recently been very successful in bringing in new funding to increase its services and will meet much more need through the East and Midlothian schools counselling provision.
As a doctor I know that physical health and mental wellbeing are not separate and they affect each other. Yet many in our society still don’t understand mental health issues or give enough them time, priority or care; negative reactions include discrimination. Sadly, shame and embarrassment still often trouble those who suffer. So MYPAS and other services make a fantastic impact.