Boost mental health through exercise: Discover the profound connection between physical activity and mental well-being. From strength training to outdoor workouts, find ways to uplift your mood.
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Boost Your Mental Health Through Exercise
With Mental Health Day just past us, you’re probably wondering how much you’ve done for your mental well-being this year. Considering the hecticness of today’s fast life and the unavoidable feeling that you’re constantly missing out on something, it’s absolutely normal to feel like you haven’t done enough. However, that’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
Building stable mental health requires an all-embracing approach to improving every aspect of your life that affects it. By starting small, you begin your healing process and tackle the bigger issues as they come. Often, starting small looks like getting your steps of the day in, taking a walk in the park or even going for a run by the lake. You’d be surprised how effective it is.
There is a known connection between moving more and feeling better. In many ways besides physical, our body rewards us for taking care of it. The feeling of accomplishment you get, accompanied by feel-good chemicals like endorphins that are naturally released after any workout, are guaranteed mood boosters.
Exercising is in itself, its own journey. Everyone has their own way of how they like to move their bodies, and you should find a routine that fits you the best. It is important that whatever you pick, you enjoy. Exercise should be all about prioritizing yourself and your wellbeing, hence you get to do things your own way. You take care of your body and your mind will
follow. Here are a few practical ways to start:
Strength or resistance training is essentially destined to make you stronger. Besides boosting your endurance and ability to do everyday things, it also prepares you for better aging. However, that’s not all that weights can do for you.
A study released in JAMA Psychiatry elaborates that resistance exercise training is associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, anxiety and stress. With depression being the number one mental illness in the world, strength training is undoubtedly an underrated tool in fighting the pandemic that are mental disorders.
But, it doesn’t stop there. It is a research-based fact that working out will improve your sleep, self-esteem and cognitive performance, increase your interest in sex, your energy and stamina and as well as your mental alertness.
If you’ve been looking for a sign to pick up the weights that stare at you at the gym, this is it! You do not have to overload yourself with unrealistic expectations about how much you can lift or how long you can stay at the gym. Starting simple is always key in successful progression. If you still feel like the gym is too big of a jump, exercises that use body weight are your best bet.
Always remember to yourself that everyone’s strength journey looks different, and if you listen to your body, you will notice an improvement in your mood within days! There is nothing like the feeling of soreness and relief when you are leaving the gym, and that happiness will follow you throughout the rest of your day.
Did you know that the term ‘aerobic’ was introduced late in the 1960s?
Dr. Kenneth Cooper coined the term in order to identify a series of exercises that helped fight cardiovascular diseases. As such, if you’re someone who prefers getting their heart working and oxygen producing, aerobic exercises are your go-to.
There are multiple benefits for the human body when you do aerobic exercise or cardio. Not only does your heart beat faster, but your brain thinks faster as well. When you think fast, you think clearer and do not have time to worry too much about whatever it is that is putting you down. Think of it as a cheat code to your own brain – whatever you do not have the time to think about simply does not matter that much altogether.
Fortunately, there is a diversity of aerobic exercises. Based on your preferences, you can pick out an activity that you enjoy doing such as water aerobics, hiking, zumba or even skiing! Not only will you be boosting your mental health, but your heart will thank you in the long term as well.
There is an undeniable connection between the mind and body. Somatization is a term that is used for the physical expression of emotions through the mind-body connection. For example, your stress gets so bad that your headache won’t stop for days. Unfortunately, we all somatize.
Nevertheless, it is not impossible to utilize this connection for the better. It is through mind-body exercises that you can turn this around and enhance your mental and physical well-being.
Mind-body exercises usually involve some sort of body movement and mental focus. They work on strengthening your connection to your body while calming your rushing mind. Many therapists include mind-body exercises as a treatment for emotional pain and traumas.
Although it can be tough to start considering the constant stimulation you face daily, it is not a reason to get discouraged. By practicing yoga or meditation, you open yourself up to the opportunity to know yourself better than you ever have before. An alternative to that could be breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or even guided imagery.
Humans excel by helping and sharing, and social health contributes significantly toward a meaningful life. Strong and solid relationships will enable you to make better decisions and overcome all sorts of obstacles life throws at you. Subsequently, your mental health will thrive.
This is one of the main reasons why people prefer to exercise in groups. It is why fitness classes exist and it is exactly why a healthy gym community is an environment where you do not feel discouraged or disappointed. Instead, you learn and share your knowledge with others, making up for a successful gym session.
In case you’ve always hesitated to get your gym membership due to feelings of loneliness or isolation, you are not alone! Enhancing exercise with social connections and finding a gym partner not only will motivate you to do your absolute best, but it will also keep you disciplined for the next session. After all, whoever misses gym day has to pay for drinks is an unspoken rule!
Taking care of your mental health is literally a walk in the park. A simple run out in your nearest park will have you sweating the harmful toxins out of your body and the negative thoughts out of your head. Paired with sunshine on a sunny day, your body will need nothing else to naturally fight off any feelings of stress or anxiety. Many people like to call this a natural antidepressant as it does exactly that! Who do you know that has gone out in the sun and has come back feeling sad?
Nature and outdoors is in itself a natural healer. Taking this into consideration, it might be a good practice to spend more time outside and challenge yourself to some interesting workouts in challenging outdoor terrains.
If you’d prefer putting your creativity to use, there are multiple ways to exercise outdoors. You do not need equipment or fancy gyms! Just a flight of stairs or a pair of roller skaters will get the job done for you. One benefit here is that your brain won’t feel limited to certain types of movements like it would at a gym. Time will fly by and you won’t even realize you’ve completed a full workout! You might meet new people and make new friends while you’re at it.
Make Exercise a Part of Your Routine
Mental health is a spectrum. No one has it all figured out. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year. You will have your hard days when you feel like all the progress you’ve made so far does not matter, and those are the days where you form strong mental resilience – with the right exercises.
If exercise is not already part of your daily routine, or if you have struggled to keep up with a routine, the practical examples we’ve presented above should help you find your own unique preferred way of winding down. It is never too late to start, and whenever you do, you will thank yourself for doing so.
Renowned entrepreneur Bill Phillips said: “Food is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America, and exercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant”. A lot of people who maintain a regular exercise regimen do it simply because it makes them feel good. It is time for you as well to harness its power for the benefit of your well-being.