Physical activity plays an important role not only in maintaining mental wellbeing but managing the symptoms of mental injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Emergency service workers have a high exposure to potentially traumatic events, increasing their risk of developing PTSD and other psychological injuries.

In association with UNSW Sydney and Black Dog Institute, EML created a series of videos with Dr Simon Rosenbaum to promote the positive impact of exercise on mental health.

“Physical activity can help deal with stress” says Dr Rosenbaum.

Benefits include:

  • Improved physical health
  • Better quality sleep
  • Reduced risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes

Emergency services and defence

A lot of emergency service workers and defence personnel come from a background of being physically active, so engaging with an exercise program is quite natural.

It’s really common that exercise becomes a coping strategy – a way to manage the day to day stresses they’re experiencing.

Un-tapped potential

There are stigmas around mental health, particularly in highly masculinised cultures, where people may not want to talk with a mental health professional. These same people can be very happy to turn up and engage with exercise.

So there’s great potential for exercise to give people another avenue for accessing mental health services.

“At the moment, this is probably an under-utilised aspect of the potential benefits of exercise” says Dr Rosenbaum.

“I knew an emergency service worker who was a keen surfer. After a shift he would jump into the surf to almost wash the stress and the experience off him” says Dr Rosenbaum.

3 steps to improve your mental health through exercise:

  1. Find a physical activity you enjoy
  2. Make it part of your regular routine
  3. Commit to it: even a small amount of physical activity is better than nothing 

Further resources

Black Dog Institute

A not-for-profit which is internationally recognised as a pioneer in the identification, prevention and treatment of mental illnesses, and the promotion of well-being.

Exercise & Sports Science Australia

A professional organisation which is committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.