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Being overly reliant on exercise is not a coping mechanism for mental health struggles, charity warns

After finding that less than three in five people include rest days in their exercise routines, Mind has warned of the dangers of exercise addiction, Saman Javed reports

Wednesday 19 January 2022 16:30 GMT
People should not become ‘overly reliant’ to manage mental health, Mind warns
People should not become ‘overly reliant’ to manage mental health, Mind warns (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Estelle Newman* found herself over-exercising shortly after she attempted suicide. Feeling unable to be alone with her thoughts, she turned to exercise as a coping mechanism. Using exercise as a means of ignoring her emotions took its toll, and she began exercising for long periods of time even when she was injured.

The benefits of frequent exercise are well-documented and researched, but is it possible to have too much of a good thing, even when it applies to our health? On its website, the NHS lists regular exercise as a means of “boosting mood” in people with mild to moderate depression, while the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that people take part in around three 45 minute sessions of physical activity per week.

Newman has since received medical treatment. “I still love exercise, and I would never give it up for the world but learning to cope with negative emotions and understanding where my drive to be active comes from has changed my relationship with physical activity,” she says. “Health and wellbeing are about balance, and sometimes that means running a marathon, but other times it means lying on the sofa.”

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