Ignite Fitness

Managing Your Mental Wellness Through Sleep and Exercise

October puts the spotlight on Mental Health Awareness, and two of the essential aspects of healthy mental wellness are sleep and staying active; Psychologist and Wellness Coach Dr. Eugene Kemp adds, “it helps with interrupting destructive patterns and obsessive worrying about something by changing the focus.” “You need to make it a priority, which often starts with being more aware, mindful and attentive with your approach. In terms of exercise, make sure to plan it into your schedule; give it a specific time slot and dedicate yourself to it – focus on the advantages of prioritising it.” he adds.

When we don’t make sleep and exercise a priority, we see an increase in psychiatric conditions, “which can exacerbate the symptoms of many mental conditions including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder” says Dr. Kemp. 

Dr. Daniel Amen, an American Psychiatrist, recently said that exercise, when measured as an antidepressant, goes head to head with pharmacology when treating depression, so it’s proven to be an effective means to support not only your mental but also physical health. 

“When it comes to exercise, if you’re feeling low, we know it can be a challenge to even think about prioritising fitness; however, you don’t have to go all out, Ignite Fitness has classes and facilities that cater to your every fitness need.  You might find that kicking up your training a notch in the Rumble arena is exactly what you need. Alternatively, If you’re just coming to the gym to get support and to join a community of like-minded people, the group class concept that we have to offer might be exactly what you need. Whatever gets you moving will surely benefit your mind and body.” says Kerry-Anne Mathieson, Head of Marketing at Ignite Fitness.

With sleep being one of the most important activities you do in a day, right up there with eating, we need to ensure we create the ‘perfect sleeping environment’.  “The ‘perfect’ environment doesn’t necessarily exist because everyone prefers it differently. It’s not impossible to try, though!” says Rudo Kemp, Founder of Sloom – the only comfort adjustable mattress in South Africa.

However, the one constant is a quality mattress and pillows – both need to support your preferred comfort as well as your body (and its shape). I launched Sloom because I wanted to create one bed that could deliver the perfect restful environment for everyone – from support to comfort, to delivery straight to your door.”  he adds.

To add to your sleeping comfort, ideally you want breathable bedding, so Cotton or Linen is always a win, but not a must. In terms of room temperature, our bodies prefer sleeping in a room that is around 23-degrees. This can either be accomplished by an aircon or managed through opening or closing windows and using thicker or cooler curtains. In terms of light, some love it pitch dark and others prefer the room to have a glance of light coming in. However blue light from screens is not suggested prior to sleep;  It’s 100% preferential to the sleeper.” he adds.

Now, how does one start incorporating better sleep habits into your routine and why is this important?


Researchers have noted that sleep links to several brain functions, including: 

  • Memory: Sleep disruption may affect memory processing and formation.
  • Performance: People’s performance at work, school, and other settings are affected by sleep disruption. This includes focus, emotional reactivity, decision-making and risk-taking behaviour.
  • Cognition: By affecting stress hormones, sleep disruption may affect your thinking, judgement and problem-solving ability.

The first step to start incorporating better sleep habits is to be aware of the many advantages and then to plan your routines around that.” says Dr. Kemp. “When a person starts to experience the benefits of sleep, it will become easier to prioritise.” he adds.

Dr. Eugene Kemp shared some of his top tips on managing your mood and mental wellness:

  • Realise that emotions/moods are a result of one’s thinking. Negative emotions follow negative thinking.
  • Interrupt the negative mood by calling a timeout and focussing on something totally different (and more positive).
  • Acknowledge the emotion, work through it and move on.
  • Remember, you are more than your emotions!

When you know of someone going through a difficult time, Dr. Eugene Kemp suggests the following for support:

  • In most cases, just be present!
  • Be willing to listen without making a value judgement.
  • Emphasise that it is ok to be vulnerable, and that no one can take away your feelings and emotions. They are valid!
  • Support them to get further help if necessary.

Health is Wealth and by prioritising your sleep and fitness schedules, you are also prioritising your mental – and physical health. Now that’s something we can all get behind.