Joseph Pilates, a renowned German fitness trainer, once said, “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”
However, strong physical health is neither equivalent to nor an indicator of robust mental health. Take, for instance, the case of Simone Biles, an American gymnast who withdrew from a few competitions in the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health. A celebrated athlete, with a total of 32 Olympic and world championship medals, confessed on social media that her “mind and body are simply not in sync”.
This event, as much as it sparked polarising debates, also brought to the fore the discourse around mental health and its relationship with physical fitness.
For the longest time, “health” as a concept was only appreciated in accordance with a person’s physical condition. It was not until the mid-1800s that the term “mental hygiene” became a part of American health studies and, thereafter, a crucial aspect of people’s health and wellbeing the world over.
Later on, underscoring the link between physical and mental health, the WHO defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.
A complementary relationship
According to a study, one in three people with a chronic physical condition usually experiences a mental health problem, most often depression or anxiety. Similarly, mental health problems often come with physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, restlessness, and insomnia.
However, how many people really consider this insight while seeking medical help?
While Indians prefer to avidly visit healthcare centers for a quick body checkup and other physical diagnoses, according to UNICEF report, only 41 percent of young people in the country said seeking professional help for mental health problems is good.
Due to how imperceptibly they are connected, mental health and physical health might appear as two disconnected things. However, as scientific research continues to demonstrate, nothing could be further from the truth. Nor is it a uniquely modern insight, as suggested by the old adage, “a healthy mind resides in a healthy body”.
This correlation became a central theme for companies and educational institutions as they began to redefine their employee and student policies in the wake of the pandemic.
From employers reducing workdays to four days a week to schools organising yoga classes for teachers, students, and staff, the commitment to making people aware of their mental health has been at the centre of organisational initiatives since March 2020.
Here’s looking at some of the top recommendations approved by experts to ensure mental and physical wellbeing:
Exercising regularly can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and various types of cancer in a person. It also helps in relieving insomnia and stress, which are often either symptoms or aggravating factors in deteriorating mental health.
Thus, enrolling oneself in at-home workout sessions, online Zumba sessions, or gym routines can aid in improving not just stamina levels but also the overall mood and wellbeing of the person.
Various stressors affecting a person’s life can lead them to develop eating disorders that, in turn, lead to physical illnesses and conditions. Eating a balanced diet, therefore, is indispensable when it comes to looking after one’s health. A healthy diet includes a sufficient mix of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Following a timetable is equally critical to help in the development, management, and prevention of numerous physical and mental health conditions in the long run.
Ensure quality sleep
Uninterrupted sleep always helps in rejuvenating the mind and the body. However, factors such as excessive screen time, recurring stress patterns, and intensive work schedules are disrupting people’s sleep cycles – even more so in the post-pandemic era.
The result? A rise in the number of cases of sleeping disorders such as insomnia, as well as mental health issues, including anxiety, stress, and depression. To strengthen one’s sleep cycle, one can practise meditation and relaxation techniques to not only boost energy levels during the day but ensure wellbeing in the long run.
To maintain mental hygiene, one can consider other methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy and self-help courses that encompass various habits in a person’s daily life. It is also advisable to complement mental hygiene with physical fitness – and vice versa.
Knowing that one cannot thrive without the other is critical to living a healthy and prosperous life.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)