Men and women with high mental well-being at the age of 42 were more physically active at the age of 50 compared to those who got lower scores in mental well-being at age 42.
Different exercise activities are related to the different dimensions of well-being in midlife.
What is mental health and mental wellbeing?
A big question which has myriad answers.
Ask a room full of people this question, and I can assure you that each answer will be slightly different.
What is mental health?
Mental health concerns the mind. It refers to how you may feel psychologically, and is linked to the emotional state you are in. A broad way by which we can measure it is our ability to cope with the normal day-to-day stresses and issues that life throws at us, and there are numerous factors that can affect it.
It is unique and individual to each person.
There are lots of people with mental health issues out there, but each one could be experiencing them in a different way.
Your mental health state can also change daily and is unpredictable – there is a reason that people call dealing with poor mental health ‘a battle’, and because of this, it can be difficult to look after.
Also, because it isn’t so obvious, it can become something we are ashamed of and which is hard for ourselves and others to understand; both add to the negative stigma surrounding it, which can make it incredibly difficult to talk about.
Poor mental health can affect anyone, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it will. In fact, many people can never have any problems whereas others can struggle for a lifetime. But it must be understood – poor mental health isn’t a choice.
Types of mental health problems
Mental health problems can manifest in different ways, ranging from everyday worries to known disorders.
Statistics published by the Mental Health Foundation indicate that the most common disorders in the UK are depression and anxiety, and other common mental disorders include phobias, OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But we also cannot forget mental health problems that have been classed as ‘serious conditions’, such as bipolar, schizophrenia and eating disorders.
Mental health problems can affect anyone, and they exhibit different symptoms. Though there are known symptoms to look out for, it isn’t always so simple. Some people might not seem to manifest any symptoms at all! But to find out more about each type of mental health problem in more depth, I recommend you visit Mind’s page, which describes and discusses signs and symptoms of each type in a comprehensive way, as well as providing advice and helpful information.
What is mental wellbeing?
Mental health and mental wellbeing are intrinsically linked, and the two phrases are often used interchangeably. Some consider mental wellbeing to be more a positive state of mind – describing it as ‘feeling good psychologically’, ‘feeling comfortable with yourself’, and ‘being in a good place’.
Others emphasise the importance of an awareness of trigger points that might affect your mental health and the strategies you can put in place to help.
Both are correct: if you are looking after your mental wellbeing, it should help you feel good psychologically.
What are the risks and what can you do?
It is important to be aware of your mental health state.
Poor mental health and associated disorders can impact your life in many ways – they can affect your social life, your work, your relationships, your overall quality of life.
But it can be a vicious cycle, as those factors can also be the cause of poor mental health.
This is why it is important to be aware of triggers that might affect your mental health state and put strategies in place that can help.
If you are concerned about your mental health, one way that might help is to work on improving your mental wellbeing. To do that, you could consider the following questions:
- Do you have a good diet?
- Do you get enough sleep? Do you have a good sleep routine?
- Is there a lot of stress or anxiety in your life? Do you know the causes?
- Are you aware of any triggers that might set off low moods or bad days?
- Do you give enough time to yourself?
- Do you exercise at all? Even a short walk every day can make a difference.
- Do you ensure you spend time with your loved ones?
Adjusting these areas may have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.
Though please don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t have the effect you want – every person is unique, and what helps one person might not help another.
It can also take time, so be patient. People often get to a point where focusing on improving their mental wellbeing using methods such as those above isn’t enough, and they find it more beneficial to their mental health to use other methods such as medication or therapy/counselling.
The new study….
Emotional well-being indicates overall satisfaction with life and a tendency to have positive feelings.
Psychological well-being refers to experiences of personal growth and the purpose of life.
Social well-being tells about relationships with other people and the community.
It was a surprise that leisure-time physical activity did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health, but mental well-being predicted physical activity.
It seems that mental well-being is an important resource for maintaining a physically active lifestyle in midlife, says Dr. Tiia Kekäläinen from the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.
Different types of physical activities are good for well-being
Investigation of various leisure-time physical activities revealed that different activities are associated with the dimensions of well-being in 50-year-old men and women. Walking was related to emotional well-being, rambling in nature to social well-being and endurance training to subjective health.
Mental well-being was investigated through three dimensions: emotional, psychological and social well-being. The image is in the public domain.
“Although exercise did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health in this study, exercise is important for current mental well-being and health,” Kekäläinen says.
These associations were found among both men and women, but additionally, rambling in nature was linked to both emotional well-being and subjective health, but only among men.
“It is possible that rambling in nature means different things for men and women. For example, it correlated with the frequency of vigorous exercise only among men,” Kekäläinen says.
The data gathered at ages 42 and 50 by questionnaires and interviews for the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS) were used (n = 303). Prof. Lea Pulkkinen started JYLS in 1968 at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä. Later, JYLS has been moved to the Gerontology Research Center and is led by Research Director Katja Kokko.
The research article is part of Tiia Kekäläinen’s doctoral thesis and has been written in collaboration between the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Zurich.
Funding: The writing of the article was funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE
University of Jyväskylä
Tiia Kekäläinen – University of Jyväskylä
The image is in the public domain.
Original Research: open access
“Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Associations between Leisure Time Physical Activity, Mental Well-Being and Subjective Health in Middle Adulthood”. Tiia Kekäläinen, Alexandra M. Freund, Sarianna Sipilä, Katja Kokko.
Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-019-09721-4