Movement and Mood

When we think of healthy coping strategies- the things we do to help manage stress or problems- we might think of mindfulness, listening to music, talking to friends, playing an instrument, getting creative, or speaking with a counsellor/psychologist. Another, often helpful, strategy is exercise (if that word is too much right now, we can use the term 'activity' instead!).

Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that children do approximately 60 minutes of moderate-intense activity most days of the week (for adults it is 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity each week). What counts as physical activity? "Any activity that gets your body moving makes your breathing quicker, and your heartbeat faster" (The Department of Health). The most recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that many Australian children haven't been getting enough (see graph below). The statistics for 18-64-year-olds are somewhat better, with 48% meeting the minimum recommendations.

Along with our sleep and nutrition, physical activity is a critical player in boosting well-being. In some studies, it is just as effective as medication and talks therapy in the treatment of particular mental health conditions. As a psychologist, and an avid runner, I'm not surprised to read these sorts of findings, and it is for this reason that I often incorporate activity into weekly schedules. It's also why Headspace includes being active as one of their top seven tips to a healthy headspace

Now more than ever, when we're feeling overloaded, inundated, or have too much 'on the go,' physical activity tends to be one of those habits that slide down the 'To Do' list, even if it's something that we do regularly. Finding the motivation to be active can also be a challenge, particularly when daylight savings have ended, and the weather is turning. While there are some restrictions in place at the moment, we can still find ways to build those active minutes 

Given the mental health benefits of physical activity (e.g., increased confidence, increased sense of accomplishment, improved mood, increased secretion of endorphins and serotonin, and reduced levels of stress) not to mention the physical benefits (e.g., enhanced cognitive function, better sleep, increased muscle and bone strength, and higher energy levels). How can we and the people that we care for increase the amount of physical activity we do each day?

If the recommended number of minutes seems unobtainable, remember that any time being active is better for you than none.

  • Be kind to yourself, if you miss a day, make a fresh start because we all have those days.
  • Don't forget that accidental movement (e.g., walking up a flight of stairs or hanging out the washing) and work-related activities (e.g., lifting, digging, pushing) also count as physical activity.
  • The total minutes don't all have to be at once, so break it up into smaller intervals of maybe 10 or 15 minutes at different times of the day.
  • Set small goals initially. When you achieve those, you will feel more motivated to go a little bit further, a floor higher, to do another rep, or another set.
  • Schedule time for physical activity. By making the time and planning, you are more likely to spend time being active.
  • Mix things up by varying the activity that you do. Keep it interesting, and it will assist in keeping you interested.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain, stop, and seek medical advice.
  • Pick something you enjoy. Some people prefer short and intense workouts, while others prefer a slower pace.
  • Monitor your progress by keeping a record or tally.
  • Are you stuck for ideas? Walk the dog, dance, skip, run, do yoga, jump, do push-ups, do sit-ups, lift weights, hula, do lunges or squats, climb trees, help carry heavy items or check out one of the many exercise channels on Youtube. 
  • Students can access the Woodleigh Sports section via SEQTA under Courses: Woodleigh Sport. Activities for people of all abilities and experience to engage with and most require minimal equipment (e.g., Basketball, Netball, Football, Soccer, General Fitness, Cricket, and Challenges)
Find an app or piece of technology that helps motivate you; this may be as simple as a pedometer to count your steps or the latest sports watch. 

During the pandemic, we must remember to practice good hand hygiene before and after being active by washing our hands, keeping 1.5 meters away from others as much as possible, and following other health experts. 


  • Nike+ Run Club
  • Zombies, Run! 5k Training
  • Couch to 5k
  • Habitica
  • Streaks

Further Reading$File/brochure%20PA%20Guidelines_A5_13-17yrs.pdf

Educational and Developmental Psychologist