We all know that working out can make us more powerful in terms of physical strength, but how many of us do out fitness goals with the aim of seeing our mental health improve?
Runner’s high – is a well known endorphin fuelled phenomenon, but it’s not just sprinting that gives your mood a leg-up, as a study by researchers at University College London found that increasing activity levels to taking three exercise sessions a week reduced the risk of depression by around 20%.
Can’t quite bring yourself to three sessions all at once? A study found that 12 per cent of cases of depression could be prevented if participants took part in just one hour of physical activity each week – so even starting small makes a huge difference.
Some doctors now prescribe exercise as a treatment for depression, among other conditions.
The simplest, most accessible and most affordable exercise of all, don’t knock a bit of a ramble until you’ve tried it. It really doesn’t have to be hours at the gym, a small ten minute walk in nature can be of huge benefit to mental health. What is very important to remember is that moving your body, in a way that is effortless and enjoyable, is the best way to start. Don’t put too many harsh goals down.
Perhaps a bit of an obvious choice, but if you’d like to complement walking with something a little more dynamic or stretching (literally and mentally). If you love gentle movement, go for yoga. It’s very soothing. It’s would be the first activity on your list for helping to get in touch with yourself.
Starting to focus and connect with your breath, and your body, can be very powerful.
If you’re struggling to establish a mind-body connection, schedule in a yoga session and see how it makes you feel. Look out for Hatha and Kundalini classes for a slower pace, before graduating to the more active.
Another low-impact, non weight-bearing option. The most important thing is whether or not you enjoy it; if you hate every second in the water, get out and give something else. Feeling enthused about the activity you do take part in is as important as the physical benefits you’ll gain.
Leaving the outside world at the door! This exercise has been shown to significantly improve so many aspects of mental health; from stress relief to happiness. It’s been proven to help anxiety and depression. It decreases stress hormones that affect our mood in a negative way and increases our happiness hormones. It helps with motivation and confidence. It has been shown to delay cognitive decline and dementia in the ageing population.
Dancing is often often associated with being happy, but even if you’re not feeling on top of the world, getting yourself into the rhythm can mean that self-esteem gradually increases as you lose yourself in the moves.
Dancing not only does it relieve stress and make you focus on the present, but it also improves self-confidence.
This kind of activity goes a lot deeper than a easy plié. It’s not just about the exercise; those classes creates a sense of community, which is emotionally supportive and encouraging.
The times to make exercise when it works for you, not against you. In other words, if you have a crazy week at work, focus on that and don’t berate yourself.