Exercise for so many, is often revered for its mental health benefits as well as the physical benefits. Laurence’s story is testament to this after a bipolar depression episode left him in a dark place and exercise helped pull him out of it and back into healthy habits as he entered his 50’s.
After being hospitalised in 2018 with severe pneumonia, Laurence spiralled into a bipolar depressive episode. Support was offered to him via the mental health charity ‘Mind’ who provided a personal trainer to accompany Laurence in the gym at Tooting Leisure Centre. Training between 5 and 7 times a week, Laurence says he ‘soon realised the benefits’ and when his training sessions ended, he signed up to become a member on a referral scheme and ‘never looked back’.
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Keep reading for Laurence's story in his own words
Whilst Laurence started his fitness journey largely for the mental health benefits, he quickly started to notice the physical changes that came in parallel with consistent training ‘I was surprised how my body began to change which was quite surprising as I was 48 when I joined. It inspired me to eat better and over time my arms and chest got bigger, and my belly disappeared.’
2019 unfortunately brought a second bipolar episode for Laurence but this time he persevered and his commitment to exercise kept him going ‘even when I couldn't do anything else I still went to the gym and worked out. It was a lifesaver and a game changer. It was the one constant activity I stuck to when I couldn't do anything else.’
Laurence is now 53 years old and continues to attend the gym at Tooting Leisure Centre at least four times a week. He insists ‘I haven't been as fit as I am now for at least 20 years. It's never too late to be a healthier, fitter you and benefit from the confidence it brings’. In addition to keeping his own routine going strong, Laurence has also introduced his family into the world of fitness, his wife – who insisted she would never go to the gym – is now a regular gym-goer, along with their son, allowing them all to spend quality time together doing something that keeps them all active. Laurence says he doesn’t think he would have come out of his depression if it wasn’t for ‘gym therapy’ and that he will ‘never stop going’.
If like Laurence, you need the support of a personal trainer at the start of your journey to help build confidence, or whether you attend the gym independently, there are huge benefits on mental fitness that can come with introducing exercise into our daily routines. Our leisure centres offer an environment which allows all our visitors to carry out their fitness journey, whatever that looks like for them.