Work, Wellness and Weights: How fitness benefits my mental health

Written by Executive Research Partner Frankie Ashford.

It’s 2024 and it feels like everyone is leading lives which are so busy – hectic even!  Whether it’s managing work tasks alongside family responsibilities, or finding a balance between social engagements and personal interests, the demands of modern life can be a lot. This constant busyness often leads to heightened stress levels, which can take a toll on our mental well-being.

20% of UK over 16s admit to being stressed every single day, with only 6% of those polled saying they never feel stressed. Given this perspective, it’s increasingly important to prioritise our mental health and discover effective methods for managing our wellbeing.

While exercise is great for preventing physical ailments, it has also been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, with 56% of people sharing that exercising regularly helped them to alleviate stress and prevent burnout in their lives.

There are likely a number of reasons why people don’t exercise as much as they’d like. Maybe they lack confidence, or time. Perhaps there are financial constraints, or they simply don’t know where to start!

If you’re one of the many who would like to use exercise as a way to improve your wellbeing, Frankie Ashford, Executive Research Partner at GRG Executive Search, can help. Frankie has consistently turned to physical exercise as a means of maintaining her mental health. Although she occasionally struggles to integrate exercise into her busy schedule, Frankie firmly believes in its importance and acknowledges its positive effects on well-being. She attributes fitness as a valuable tool for staying centred and optimistic.

In this blog, Frankie shares her journey with an active lifestyle and its impact on her personal fitness and mental wellbeing. She offers a number of ways fitness can be incorporated into a busy schedule, and explains the importance of finding a form of fitness that works for you – because we’re all different, after all, and there are so many ways to move your body and improve your mental health.


“Carving out time in our day or week for exercise can seem daunting amid the hustle and bustle of daily life. Many of us are caught up in the whirlwind of busy schedules, relegating exercise to the back burner as a luxury rather than a necessity.

Personally, I’ve found solace in exercise and training as essential tools for managing my mental health and anxiety levels. Anxiety manifests differently for everyone, but for me, it’s an overwhelming surge of unease, nervousness, and panic, often accompanied by light-headedness and racing thoughts. It’s like that split second of fear when you almost trip but catch yourself just in time, amplified.

Engaging in various forms of physical activity has significantly alleviated these symptoms for me. I’ve come to realise that neglecting exercise can detrimentally impact both my physical and mental well-being, which is why I make a concerted effort to prioritise staying active. For me, exercise serves as a release—a space where I can disconnect from daily stressors and focus solely on the present moment. Whether it’s cycling, where I immerse myself in the rhythm of the ride, or running, where every step serves as a distraction from intrusive thoughts, or even attending fitness classes, each activity offers a reprieve from the grip of anxiety.  

Exercise isn’t just about sculpting the perfect physique or fitting into smaller clothes. It’s about nurturing our bodies and minds, improving overall wellbeing, and enhancing our quality of life.  Regular exercise offers a myriad of benefits; 

Why prioritise exercise? 

  • It can relieve stress – Exercise is a powerful stress reliever, helping to reduce cortisol levels and promote relaxation. 
  • It can improve mood – Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that boost mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. 
  • It can lead to improved sleep – Regular exercise can improve sleep quality, helping us feel more rested and rejuvenated. 
  • It can increase energy levels – Contrary to popular belief, exercise can boost energy levels, making us feel more alert and productive throughout the day. 
  • It can enhance cognitive function – Physical activity has been shown to improve memory, concentration, and overall cognitive function. 

How do we incorporate exercise into our busy lives? 

Fitness is not one-size-fits-all; it encompasses a wide range of activities, preferences, and abilities. By focusing on what our bodies can do rather than what they look like, we can cultivate a positive and empowering relationship with fitness.

Finding time for exercise requires creativity, flexibility, and commitment. Here are some strategies to help you fit exercise into your day. 

  • Schedule it in – Treat exercise like any other appointment or commitment. Set aside specific times in your day dedicated to physical activity and stick to them as much as possible. 
  • Workout first thingConsider exercising first thing in the morning before your day gets busy. This ensures you get it done before other responsibilities arise, and can also boost your energy and mood for the day ahead. 
  • or fit in a lunchtime session – If mornings aren’t feasible, use your lunch break for a quick workout session. Look for nearby gyms, parks, or fitness classes that you can fit into your midday schedule. 
  • Make the most of breaks – Break up your workday with short bursts of activity. Take brief walks, do some stretching exercises, or even incorporate desk exercises to keep your body moving throughout the day. 
  • Make time with multi-tasking – Look for opportunities to combine exercise with other activities. You could listen to podcasts or audiobooks while walking or jogging, or do bodyweight exercises while watching TV in the evening. If you find it difficult to fit in exercise due to a busy work schedule, why not take advantage of modern technology and join a virtual team meeting while out on a walk?  
  • Opt for quick but impactful workouts – Choose workouts that provide maximum benefits in minimal time. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit training, and Tabata workouts are great options for getting a full-body workout in in a shorter amount of time. 
  • Rope in an accountability partner – Find a workout buddy or accountability partner who shares similar fitness goals. Knowing that someone is counting on you can help motivate you to prioritise exercise even on busy days. 
  • Set realistic goals and be flexible – Be realistic about the time you have available for exercise and set achievable goals accordingly. Even short, consistent workouts can lead to significant improvements in fitness over time. It’s important to remember that there will be days when unexpected events disrupt your plans. Instead of getting discouraged, be flexible and willing to adjust your workout schedule as needed. 

Don’t forget the power of the simple walk! 

Tough HIIT sessions or gruelling runs aren’t for everyone, and can be intimidating to those new to fitness. We often over look the power of a simple walk and the profound benefits a leisurely stroll can still have.

Walking is one of the most accessible forms of physical activity available to us. It requires no special equipment, no gym membership, and can fit into even the busiest of schedules.

The act of walking holds immense potential to positively impact our overall wellbeing. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while improving mood and cognitive function. Physical health benefits of walking are equally noteworthy. While it may not elevate our heart rate to the same extent as a HIIT class, regular walking can still improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, walking helps to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and promote better posture, all of which contribute to overall physical wellbeing. 

Perhaps most importantly, walking offers a respite from the constant demands and distractions of modern life. In a society where we’re constantly bombarded with notifications, deadlines, and obligations, taking a walk allows us to unplug and recharge. It’s a chance to escape the relentless march of time, if only for a brief moment, and reclaim a sense of autonomy over our own lives. 

What else can I do to prioritise my mental wellbeing? 

While exercise is crucial for physical health, it’s equally important to prioritise our mental well-being. Here are some strategies to nurture your mental health: 

  • Practice self-compassion:  Be kind to yourself and recognize that it’s okay to prioritise rest and relaxation when needed. 
  • Set boundaries:  Learn to say no to activities or commitments that drain your energy and overwhelm you. 
  • Practice mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to reduce stress and promote mental clarity. 
  • Seek support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family members, or mental health professionals for support when needed. 
  • Engage in activities you enjoy – Make time for hobbies and activities that bring you joy and fulfilment, whether it’s reading, painting, or spending time in nature. 

In today’s fast-paced world, fitting exercise into a busy life can be challenging, but it’s essential for both our physical and mental wellbeing. By making exercise a priority and adopting strategies to incorporate it into our daily routines, we can reap the countless benefits it offers. Moreover, nurturing our mental health is equally important, and taking steps to prioritise self-care and well-being can lead to a happier, healthier life. Remember, it’s not about finding time for exercise; it’s about making time for yourself. 

For more insights and advice from the GRG Executive Search team, or to find out more about the Executive Search market, visit our insights page on our website. 

Get in touch

We'd love to hear from you.

0121 631 1751

Contact Form

Need help with your search?

Make an Enquiry

Looking for opportunities?

Live Roles