2023 Trends - The shift towards prioritizing mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic drew attention to the growing mental health crisis in our country. At the height of the pandemic, 40% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared with 11% pre-pandemic. This drastic increase is shifting the research landscape on exercise and mental health and is also shifting consumer demand for exercise.
A Mintel study released early in 2022 showed that 78% of exercisers consider mental and emotional well-being as their top reason for working out. With mental health and emotional well-being as a primary consumer motivator, the topic will continue to be front and center for the fitness industry in 2023.
Just as the fitness industry is focusing on mental health benefits, the research community is also focusing on the connection points between exercise and mental health. It has long been known that exercise releases feel-good neurotransmitters like endorphins and dopamine throughout the nervous system. However, the health care industry will not actively prescribe fitness as a treatment for mental health disorders until there are direct and consistent correlations between exercise and physical activity. New brain research is starting to move closer to indisputable evidence.
In their paper, “The Role of Exercise in Management of Mental Health Disorders: An Integrative Review” Patrick J. Smith and Rhonda M. Merwin link physical activity to mental health outcomes. Their research explores how exercise triggers the release of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which encourages the growth of new brain cells. Studies show that people with depression have lower levels of BDNF. While it seems like an obvious connection, there is more research needed to show conclusively that the exercise-associated increase in BDNF is what reduces depressive symptoms.
While some of the brain science is incomplete, exercise has an immediate impact on mood anecdotally, making it a valuable preventative, supplemental or alternative tool to front-line treatments like drugs or therapy. While medical providers are screening for depression signals and trying to remove stigmas once someone is already inside a medical office, the fitness industry is on the front lines and can help with preventative treatment strategies.
Fitness facilities need to continue to educate around holistic measures that go beyond just weight and inches. Posting facts about the connection between exercise and mental health on social media and in newsletters can help reduce the stigma and open up conversations. Members need mood-boosting victories as well as endorphin releases every time they enter a facility. The sense of progress and accomplishment that is felt after one visit can have such a large impact in members’ overall mental health.
At KickHouse and at Mayweather Boxing + Fitness, we’re well-positioned to help with stress relief. While exercise in general boosts endorphins, boxing and kickboxing have an added benefit of hitting the bag and physically releasing that fight or flight stress and drastically reducing cortisol and adrenaline levels.
As we know from transforming lives physically, the anecdotal evidence can be more impactful than the science. It is time to actively collect and share transformations in mental health as well as physical health. A KickHouse Parker member, Audra Jackson shares her experience in this testimonial:
“During every workout, I would release so many emotions. Sometimes sadness, anger, resentment, tears, and laughs. All the stress that I happily left on the mat!” said Audra Jackson, a member of KickHouse Parker. “Now, my mind is healthier! That’s what I needed first. Now I can focus on my habits and my body.”
Sharing member stories like Audra’s and sharing the scientific findings that speak to mental health benefits of physical activity can reduce the stigma around mental health and can help to tighten the connection in the minds of members and prospects. Not only does the industry have an obligation to do its part to de-stigmatize the mental health struggles that so many people are working through today, but there is an opportunity to highlight just how essential exercise is to preventative healthcare. The fitness industry is on the front lines of preventative health care and positive mental health. Understanding the landscape of mental health can position fitness as essential within the healthcare industry but more importantly, there is an even greater opportunity to make positive changes in the lives of members and prospects.
KickHouse is a modern kickboxing studio offering a variety of class formats, each rooted in kickboxing but with additional fitness flare added in. The KickHouse mission is to help members and communities take their health and kick it up a level via a consistent kickboxing practice! KickHouse is the perfect kickboxing gym for beginners or advanced athletes. The new kickboxing brand has quickly grown to over 35 locations across the country. To find your nearest KickHouse location visit www.kickhouse.com/locations. To sign up for your first class offer please visit www.kickhouse.com/first-class-free to book your first sweat session with our fight fam.