The crucial role of exercise psychologists
I recently completed my BPS training to become an accredited Sport and Exercise Psychologist. Although one qualifies as sport and exercise psychologist, practitioners tend to go on to work in either sport or exercise fields. I’d like to raise awareness into exercise psychology as a valuable field in its own right.
In sport psychology, the primary aim tends to be enhancing athletic performance (with a secondary aim of optimising wellbeing). Although other sporting professionals tend to understand a sport psychologist’s role, it can be difficult to convince some of them of its value. That being said, in recent years the understanding and appreciation of sport psychology has improved. The effects of sports psychology in professional football are now well known, and it is not uncommon now for athletes to publicly espouse how developing their psychological skills has benefitted them. Notwithstanding this, it is clear that exercise psychology does not garner this same publicity.
Rather than focussing on professional or elite athletes, exercise psychologists tend to have a primary aim of improving health and wellbeing for the ordinary person. In that sense it is a broader field than sports psychology – the large majority of the population are not elite sportspersons – and, therefore, one could argue that it carries greater importance in health and wellbeing. Because of this, I pursued the ‘exercise’ branch of sport and exercise psychology. My inclination towards exercise psychology further stemmed from having seen first-hand the positive and reciprocal relationship of mental health and exercise.
What I now realise is that few people have actually heard of an exercise psychologist. Because of this, working in private practice, it can be difficult to find work, and this can feel like a constant uphill battle. Without that assumed knowledge, it becomes much harder for one to sell their services as an exercise psychologist. I am currently communicating exercise psychology knowledge to different individuals, teams and organisations. I work to spread the word about what exercise psychologists do and why it is such a worthwhile field.
As the world changes, so do the requirements within it. Increasing recognition of the dangers of mental health issues, for example, is a fantastic development which will necessitate an increase in professionals to cater for the demand in support, ultimately benefiting society. New jobs are created, and soon enough it becomes impossible to imagine a life without them. But this progression can’t happen without a light shining on the role, and its value being recognised. I am now a qualified sport and exercise psychologist, and more than ever want to communicate an important message; exercise psychologists play a crucial role in the health and wellbeing of society. They use psychological principles to encourage participation in, and adherence to, exercise. This can improve mood/confidence/motivation/self-esteem, reduce stress levels, increase energy, and much more.
With this in mind, how could exercise psychology help you achieve your desired state of health and wellbeing?
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