Get on your bike for your mind’s sake

Amber Sloan from Banbridge is all geared up for the new year fitness drive.
Amber Sloan from Banbridge is all geared up for the new year fitness drive.

‘Healthy body, healthy mind.’

That’s the motto of Banbridge fitness enthusiast Amber Sloan, who is urging the local public to keep up their new year excercises, for the good of their mental health.

We’ve all made those January promises to clean up our act and, more often than not, they’re just a distant memory as February comes knocking and we’re back on the sofa.

But, according to Amber and leading mental health and depression charity AWARE, it won’t just benefit our appearance.

In fact, exercise is often a neglected strategy in the management of depression. Research suggests, though, that regular exercise may increase the level of brain serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood, sleep, libido, appetite and other functions.

As little as 20 minutes of exercise is believed to have the same benefits as one antidepressant tablet.

Prompted by this research, AWARE has chosen a fitness challenge for its 20th anniversary celebrations this year. The Malin-Mizen cycle is a 416-mile journey takes place over six days (28 May-4 June 2016). It begins at the most northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head and ends in the most southerly point, Mizen Head.

But if that’s too big a spin, they also offer some basic exercise tips to set us on our way.

Here is their simple guide:

· A minimum of 30 minutes moderate exercise every day like a brisk walk where a slight increase in breathing and heart rate is noticeable.

· Exercising for at least 10 minutes at a time - the 30 minutes total does not need to be continuous; Short sessions of different activities can be combined to make up a total of 30 minutes exercise each day

· Introducing exercise into your daily routine where possible – for example, take the stairs or take a lunchtime walk.

· For extra benefits, it is recommended that adults (who are able) should participate in vigorous activity that makes them ‘huff and puff.’ Think jogging, rowing, squash!

· For best results, vigorous exercise should last 30 minutes or more, three to four days per week (on top of moderate exercise).

Find out more tips and info on AWARE’s Malin-Mizen cycle at www.aware-ni.org.