5 Best Workouts If You Want to Improve Your Mental Health
Despite all of our advances in the 21st century and our growing health awareness, it seems that the stigma surrounding mental health remains firmly present in all societies around the world. To weed out discrimination and suppressive behavior of those who have a history of mental illness, there have been some incredible campaigns such as “The Power of Okay” that the organization See Me from Scotland created to bring us closer to the truth of living with anxiety.
However, while the world is slowly becoming more educated on the importance of mental well-being, most healthy individuals feel almost invincible, as if it’s always an issue that happens “to someone else”. Living in stressful environments, losing a loved one, or experiencing any form of trauma can make us all vulnerable to the first signs of depression, anxiety, or a wide range of other mental health troubles. What we do before it strikes is what may help us all cope with its onset, prevent it entirely, or help someone in our life start to heal – and physical activity is most certainly one of the simplest ways to take the matter into your own two hands.
We already spend too much of our time surrounded by concrete, traffic noise, and sitting down – all of which are known triggers of depression and anxiety, but also developing psychosis. Conversely, numerous studies have confirmed that our bodies thrive when we visit natural spots on a regular basis, surround ourselves with greenery, and detox from urban pollution, airborne pollutants, or artificial lighting. Mother Nature reduces the amount of city stress we’re exposed to, it inspires us to socialize, and it floods our body with happy hormones and fresh air.
The best way to spend more of your time in nature is to schedule regular weekly workouts in the great outdoors. Even the least fit among you can start with a walking session with a group of friends, ensuring safety and social bonding together with exercise all in a single package. You will notice that after introducing a consistent hiking routine, you’ll sleep better, think more clearly, enrich your body with vitamin D from sunlight, and reward your body with more oxygen, all of which is vital for our physical and mental well-being.
Cycling is one of those childhood activities that we’ve all grown to love, and yet, living a hectic life rarely seems inviting to add another chore. However, when you start adding a few weekly cycling sessions, you’ll no longer be perceiving it as a chore, but as a pleasurable activity that boosts your mood and gives you tremendous amounts of energy instead. The beauty of it is that you can cycle outside when the weather suits you, as well as indoors, in a gym, or at home, when winter arrives, the effects will remain almost the same.
It’s shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, much like other forms of prolonged aerobic activities that deliver more blood to your muscles as well as your brain, and elevate your heartrate. If you cycle in nature, you also receive the same perks of hiking, as you can leave the city stress behind, enjoy the scenery, and challenge your body and your mind to grow more resilient. Using protective gear such as helmets and sun-blocking wearables is recommended for those longer cycling sessions outside to keep your workouts safe!
This ancient discipline is so much more than a perfect stretching routine, or one that helps you grow stronger and more flexible over time. It comes with the philosophy of the East, one that focuses on holistic healing rather than merely exercising your body, so the person who dedicatedly practices yoga becomes more self-aware and in-tune with their body and their needs.
However, one of the key aspects of yoga that make it ideal for preventing as well as treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues is its focus on breathing. There are standalone breathing exercises, while all of the yoga flows and asanas equally focus on the movements as well as breath control. It’s recommended for all yogi levels, but especially for beginners, to use supportive tights and tops to ensure safe movements during those deep stretches and complex flows. Gaining better control of your breath helps soothe and slow down your scattered mind, and alleviates the effects of stress in your life.
A very primal urge, to move in the rhythm of music, is not just a handy way to spend a Saturday night, or burn some calories in your aerobics class. Music has a profound impact on your motivation, your mood, and your desire to stay active, serving as a perfect foundation of infusing your life with more exercise. That is why taking a dance class takes the feeling of exercising out of the equation, as we tend to lose ourselves in the music and mastering new movements – which is also excellent for strengthening our neural pathways and improving memory and cognitive function.
What makes it so incredible in terms of combating mental illness is that dancing provides a safe vent to express emotions, which is often an issue for mental health patients, but also for those who are simply sensitive and exposed to chronic stress. Moving to the music you love is a great cardio workout, while it also gives you the chance to face and process your emotions, making it a win-win for all those looking to grow their emotional resilience.
Some might find this to be an unorthodox match, but the most recent analysis of 30 different studies shows that resistance training has a positive impact on combating depression by reducing its many symptoms. While the importance of aerobic exercise still stands, adding anaerobic workouts can only improve the benefits of being physically active on a regular basis. While the reasons behind this link are still somewhat vague, it may be rooted in several key effects this type of training can have on your life.
For starters, resistance workouts help improve the quality of your life by increasing your mobility, strength, and endurance, which translates to making all of your daily chores much easier to tackle. Strength training is also a powerful confidence-booster, allowing you to increase your self-esteem, while making you more resilient to stress triggers later in life.
Although there is no cure-all perfect option among these healthy activities, focusing on the right lifestyle choices is an essential first step in protecting your physical, as well as mental well-being. Sometimes, however, life may put us through more stress than we can cope with, so listening to your body and noticing symptoms as early as possible is vital in prevention and healing. No matter how active you become, stay vigilant, and seek help if you notice that your mental state is declining, despite your best efforts.