Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

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Written by A Ballantyne on in Lothian, Borders and Dumfries and Galloway

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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

It’s not just about getting a flatter stomach or bigger arms. Exercise and leading an active lifestyle can change your outlook on life.

Health magazines can be annoying, but if you’re not interested you don’t have to read them. It’s those fitness people who can be the worst. You know the ones I mean. It’s not a proper gym session if they don’t check-in or take a selfie. They laugh at you for eating carbs. Do you even lift, bro?

It’s not the lifestyle I have a problem with; it’s the sense of superiority. It’s not encouraging other people to make lifestyle changes and be healthier, it’s just showing off.

I never used to be into fitness, but now that I am, I am determined not to become one of those people. I’m not trying to force it upon anyone, and the only person I feel superior to is myself approximately two years ago. There are obvious aesthetic benefits, but I want to discuss the physical and psychological benefits that have come from my lifestyle change. Healthy body, healthy mind.

I didn’t think I had a particularly unhealthy lifestyle. I wasn’t overweight – but that didn’t mean I was healthy.  I was a stereotypical student; stir fries, beans on toast, the occasional (!) drink and the resultant 3am trip to Scotmid for a meal deal. At school, I went for naps in the nurses office during games and PE, after giving up sports in 3rd year. Back then, a lie in on a Saturday morning was far more beneficial to me than the benefits of sport.

Then one day, my entire back seized up. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t walk properly and had to literally roll out of bed (because of physical restrictions, as opposed to now rolling out of bed for work at 7am. That is a different problem!)

The physio told me my torso needed strengthening to support my back and my posture needed straightening. He cracked my back a bit then told me to start exercising, much to my dismay. I was hoping a nice massage would be the solution.


The physical health benefits of exercise have been repeated again and again, so there’s no need for me to write exhaustively about it. In short, it can help reduce the risk of health problems such as obesity, diabetes (type II) and heart disease – all of which are prevalent in Scotland. It strengthens your bones, your muscles and your heart. In my case, I now have minimal to no back pain, and a better posture. This is particularly important now I have a desk job – it prevents me from feeling stiff, and keeps my body and mind active and alert. You’ll notice an increase in your energy levels too.

I also suspect it has boosted my immune system – I used to get ill quite often and I’d end up a snivelling mess for about a week. However, now if I get a cold, I recover in a day or two.

Mentally, I’m a much more positive person. Are you stressed out or have something on your mind? For me, there’s nothing like going on a long run by myself on a (rare) beautiful evening to clear my mind, or just to contemplate life. It sounds really cheesy, but it works.

When you exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins which does something in your brain that reduces the perception of pain, and causes a positive feeling in the body. The feeling  is so satisfying, and often results in a brighter, more positive outlook on life. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and feelings of depressions, while boosting self-esteem and improving sleep.

Play a sport, go to the gym, go for a run or a walk, a bike ride, a swim – choose an activity you enjoy. Exercising should be fun, and make use of the area around you. I’m lucky enough to live in Edinburgh with the beautiful Arthur’s Seat, where the view at the top is worth it:

20130712_203849Panorama from the top of Arthur’s Seat


Young people are often perceived and portrayed as lazy, but there are many young people who lead and promote a healthy and active lifestyle, helping to tackle these negative views.

The Commonwealth Games is the perfect opportunity to put these young people in the spotlight. Notable examples are the Young People’s Sport Panel, which is a group of 16 young Scots formed through a partnership between SportScotland and Young Scot. They aim to give a voice to young people across Scotland and ensure that their views are listened to and considered by the government, while trying to make sport more accessible and enjoyable to encourage more young people to take part in physical activities and lead an active lifestyle.

Similarly, there is the Lead 2014 campaign programme, designed to encourage young people in school to be involved in the build-up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and help develop their skills, by attending conferences with mentors and tutors, and ultimately organising a sports festival for their local primary and secondary schools.

“The intention is to use sport as a springboard to hone and develop leadership ability among young people and, in turn, provide an opportunity for children across the region to engage with the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.”

Young People's Sport Panel, Ratho, Edinburgh, Jan 2013

Young People’s Sports Panel

David Grevemberg, Glasgow 2014’s Chief Executive, said:

“Lead 2014 is a call to action and a fantastic chance for us to empower young people as part of the Glasgow 2014 journey and further enable the legacy these Games will leave.

“By using sport as a platform to enthuse the students and pupils about leadership, volunteering, sport, health and well-being we can instill a desire to be part of the Games and the broader Commonwealth, playing an active role in their communities.

“I truly hope we will see many of them engage with other Glasgow 2014 activity and other major events in years to come.”

There are also plenty of young Scottish sporting heroes helping to tackle the ‘lazy’ portrayal of young people, and inspire others and give them someone to look up to – Andy Murray being an obvious example!

All the young people mentioned are working hard to highlight and promote the benefits of leading an active lifestyle (such as good health and well being) and developing really important and useful skills (such as leadership) by getting involved in activities in their local area through the media to a nationwide audience.

However, this is just a small example – there are so many others out there! We’re interested in finding out about how YOU are leading and promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

Why do you think it’s important, and how has it benefited you?

Improved health? A new, exciting hobby? Met new people? Kept you out of trouble – is it a positive outlet?

We’d love to hear from you! Tweet us at @TAYScotland

Just remember – healthy body, healthy mind!


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