Move Your Body, Elevate Your Mind: The Science-Backed Steps to Mental Fitness

Uncover the 3 steps for achieving optimal mental fitness from expert Physiotherapist and Health Coach Kirsten Rose, and learn why starting without goals is the key to living your best mentally fit life!

Kirsten Rose - Physiotherapist & Health Coach

Many of us are well versed in why exercise is good for our physical wellbeing, it’s probably common knowledge that moving our body makes our muscles and bones stronger, and we can get physically fitter. But did you know that it also makes your brain stronger? By moving your body you can get mentally fitter too. Now that’s a great bang for your buck!

Let’s shine a light on a few of the evidence-based reasons to exercise for your mental health and fitness: 

  • Regulation of our “fight or flight” response which improves our stress management and can reduce anxiety
  • Uplifting and stabilising our mood, aiding with preventing and treating depression
  • Improving focus, attention and creativity 
  • Increasing resilience and improving our ability to face challenges with more confidence
  • Brain development in our youth and maintenance of our brain tissue as we age which helps to prevent conditions like dementia
  • Better sleep
  • Social connection
  • Spending time in nature

And there’s probably a bunch more that I’ve forgotten but the bottom line is that EXERCISE IS GREAT FOR OUR BRAINS. 

Also, as humans, we’re wired to NEED it in our life in some shape or form. Yes, you read it correctly, that says ‘need’, even if you don’t like it, you need it. 

When we can’t access it on a regular basis, it can play a big part in unravelling our overall health and wellbeing. I’m sure many of us can think back to those pandemic lockdown times when the “stupid walk around the block” was a key part of maintaining your mental wellness. I also see it in my Physio job, while being injured is a stressful thing on its own, the negative impact that it has on a person’s ability to exercise and therefore their mental wellbeing is often larger than the injury itself, particularly in someone who would consider themselves “a regular exerciser”. 

Exercise also plays a huge role in getting us beyond wellness and into what is commonly referred to as “mental fitness”. We can use regular exercise to microdose stress on our brain and body, therefore becoming more resilient and tolerant of adversity. I’m sure I’m not alone in the experience of doing physically hard things which helped me to access mental grit that I didn’t know I had in the first place but also that I can use for other aspects of life!

Kirsten Rose - Physiotherapist & Health Coach

In this modern-day world, we’re already overloaded by information on WHY it’s important to do things. In my role as a Physio and Health Coach, it’s my job to focus on helping you decide HOW you might do it. So here are my learnings and experience all wrapped up into a few key tips to help create and maintain an exercise habit. 


Yup, I’m going against the grain. Especially if your goal is based on what I’m going to call a relatively arbitrary outcome like “being able to walk/run 5km”, or “getting my watch to tell me that my VO2 max is X”. Yes I know you’ve been told that setting a goal that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound is the way to go, but I’d like to counter offer. With nearly two decades of experience helping people to change their behaviour, I’m not sure that goals like that have the staying power that we need in this scenario. We want to develop an exercise habit that lasts for life, not just until we reach a certain goal, and that requires a different starting approach. 

Instead, I want you to consider what you really value in your life. What’s important to you? What type of person do you want to be? What helps you set your compass direction as you navigate the twists and turns on your life journey? Write them down. For example, some of mine would be – a strong connection to my family and friends, being patient and kind, having compassion, and feeling fit and strong. 

Once you’ve got those down, I want you to think about how exercise might help you to be that person or to feel that way. Again write that down. For me, I know that when I’m exercising regularly I can access the headspace and mindset to be that person and to act in accordance with what I value. When my head is cluttered, I’m stressed and distracted, it’s a whole different story. I’m not particularly fond of that version of me. 


Next, we’re going to dig a little deeper into HOW you might choose to exercise. The bottom line here  – you don’t need to set yourself up to fail. In fact, I’d encourage you to pick a form and duration of exercise that you know you can be successful at on a regular basis. It might even feel easy to get it done! For some people that might be just taking the stairs at work, walking their children to school, or doing a few squats in their lunch break. If you’re just getting started, don’t get stuck in the nitty-gritty of exactly what type of exercise you “should” be doing. You’re the one who gets to choose. The thing that matters most is that you do it. Let’s create a routine before you try to optimise it. 


This is where we can start to talk about goal setting again, but we’re going to set a goal based on the process, not the outcome.  So what does “consistent” look like for you?  How many times a week would you like to be doing that “small win”? Write that down. 

Now I can almost guarantee the first plan you make is what we can call “Optimistic”, the one that you’re aspiring to. And I love that! We need that, so don’t chuck it out just yet. It’s likely to be what you could achieve when things are going well and your week is trucking along nicely. But what about those other weeks, you know the ones where there’s too many balls in the air and it’s harder to fit your exercise in? 

So we need two more versions of our plan – “realistic” and “minimalistic”. Realistic is exactly that – what will realistically fit right now in your life? Go on, I challenge you to actually meet yourself where you’re at. I know it can be hard, you might even feel a bit uncomfortable admitting to it. 

The “minimalistic” plan is what we need to stop us from falling off the wagon completely. It’s often the level that we don’t like to admit we need to plan for and we’d be saying to ourselves “That’s not good enough”. But it’s super important because it ensures we still do “something” rather than “all or nothing”. 

Kirsten Rose - Physiotherapist & Health Coach

Once you’ve been through those three steps you will have a strategy that not only gets you started on the road to success but also keeps you on a path to moving more for your mental fitness. It is normal to fluctuate through all the versions of your plan as you navigate the twists and turns of life, so here’s to your journey – whether you’re a dance-in-the-living-room enthusiast, stair-climber extraordinaire, or a sneaker-lacer-upper. It’s not just about the exercise; it’s your daily mood boost, your mental fitness prescription. In a world where choices abound, make the simple one that keeps you moving, thriving, and living your best mentally fit life!

Take a look at the upcoming free PREKURE Mental Fitness 21-Day Program kicking off in April 2024, if you are keen to learn more and discover the tools to help you improve your mental fitness visit – 


About Kirsten

Kirsten is a mum, wife, business owner, Physiotherapist and PREKURE-certified Health Coach. 

Over her career, Kirsten has worked with people from all walks of life with a wide range of health-related concerns, from chronic pain sufferers and cancer survivors, to elite athletes and military personnel. From this experience, she’s seen first-hand how the foundations of our health and the pillars of performance differ by degree, not kind. She firmly believes that strategies required for wellbeing and sustainable high performance are simple, but the modern world makes them seem complex and difficult to implement. 

In her coaching and physiotherapy practice, Kirsten is passionate about empowering her clients to convert their knowledge into action so that they can create truly sustainable wellbeing practices that support their goals both personally and professionally.  


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