By: Ty Ferguson

A popular yet often uneducated opinion on how to be free of any mental illness is to “just go for a run.” Anyone who has faced depression or anxiety in their lifetime though knows that recommendation just sounds senseless.

It is stated mostly by people who do not completely understand the effects or symptoms of mental illnesses. The “just go for a run” belief is a stigma that is worth talking about, especially in light of mental health week.

When told without reason, a statement like “just go for a run” is just intimidating and unlikely to be acted on, especially for someone with a mental illness that could be causing constant motivation, worry, fear or sadness.

If expressed, the underlying intention of the statement should be expanded. Explaining the benefits that fitness can have for a person feeling mentally unwell is what’s most important.

Evidence, as well as countless personal experiences and accounts, safely say a bit of physical activity in a week is undoubtedly an effective way to reduce anxiety and depression.

“While medication and talk therapy are extremely effective, nothing can replace the satisfaction and benefits that physical activity confers,” said Tanya Spence, a counselor at NAIT.

Thirty-minutes three times a week is what is typically recommended – nothing crazy. Spencer said that even just“taking at least a five-minute walk daily

is a very potent antidote to depression.” Jake Harris, an Instrumentation Engineering student at NAIT said: “Working out lets me be comfortable in my own skin.” He has been working out nearly every day for two years. Apart from exclusively the physical improvement aspect, Harris claims he works out a lot for the alternative ‘gains’ of self-esteem and stress relief as well as to “stay focused and in a good mood”

between classes, studying, and life. Although Harris admits he’s never quite dealt with any mental health issues in the past, personal trainer Kris-ten Grisé admits that she has. A graduate of NAIT’s Personal Fitness Training program, Grisé admits that before coming to NAIT she began taking medication to help with her depression. Fitness for her, though, allowed her to eventually go without.

“Once I got into the program, I began working out pretty often, within about a year I decided I’d go off my medication – I’ve been off of it for about two years now.”

She says as a personal trainer the number one thing she notices for people first trying to include fitness in their life is that they overwhelm themselves, thinking they need to try and do everything. “To know you can go at your own pace,” she says, is what’s most important.

Fortunately, fitness resources at NAIT for beginners are easily accessible. Free fitness classes, affordable personal trainers, an available open gym and plenty of other means of getting active are available for students and instructors.

Ultimately, while fitness is great for mental health, going to see a professional counselor like Tanya Spencer about how you are feeling is going to be the best thing to do for discovering what’s best for you.