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Ways to Nurture Your Mental Health Through Physical Activity

Nov 20, 2019 by

We are all aware of the positive effects that exercising has on our bodies. Just 150 minutes of exercise per week can help you with everything from improving your bones and joints to having a healthy heart. However, are you aware that psychical activity is also beneficial for our minds?

While mental health issues stay widely under-reported, in 2017, it was estimated that over 970 million people in the world were struggling with a mental or substance use disorder. That means that around one in every seven people is affected.

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues people deal with and it’s not uncommon for these disorders to have a big impact on the quality of their life. People often don’t like dealing with doctors and taking medication but that is something that should not be neglected as getting proper therapy can do wonders for an individual’s condition.

Furthermore, every doctor would also recommend physical activity to help the people affected feel better. While it is understandable that these conditions might make individuals unmotivated to take any action, there are many different types of activities that are not hard to do, and some don’t even require leaving the house.

With that in mind, if you are dealing with a mental health condition or if you would simply like to prevent one from developing, keep on reading to see which activities you can take up to feel better and nurture your mind.

Yoga

Yoga and meditation are often mentioned in connection with mental health. These activities allow an individual to connect with their body and mind. In addition to being every soothing, it also acts as a great workout which focuses on flexibility, strength, and breathing.

The great thing about yoga is that there are so many ways how you can approach it. For example, seeing as how most towns nowadays have some sort of yoga center, you can look for a local class to join. Working with an instructor can be very beneficial for following the exercise and achieving your goals.

However, if you think that you will not be able to go there on your own, you can ask a friend to join you. Having someone you know there will be encouraging and might put you in a better mood.

Finally, if you just don’t feel like leaving the house on certain days, you can also practice yoga in the comfort of your home. All you need is a quality yoga mat and a quiet space. Plus, if you’re still a beginner, you can look for various tutorials online which you can follow until you get the hang of it – just be careful as improper poses and form can cause injuries over time.

When starting out, you should look for some slow-paced classes, like Hatha and Kundalini. However, later on, you can move on to some more active styles that will get your heart racing, such as Vinyasa and Ashtanga.

Research suggests that yoga can help with managing depression and relieving anxiety, in addition to reducing stress, decreasing lower back pain and improving the quality of life for people with chronic pain.

Walking

If yoga seems too advanced to start with, you can try something simple like walking. This is an activity that most people can do and it does not require any special equipment nor other types of investment, such as a gym membership. You can do it whenever you have some free time.

Start by going for a 10-minute walk around the block. This is effortless and will get you out in the fresh outdoors. Over time, you can make your walks longer and visit calming spots that are not super busy and simply enjoy nature. Remember to start slow and increase the pace and distance of your walks as you feel your mood improves.

Don’t set harsh goals for yourself but simply go out and go wherever the road takes you. Furthermore, you can meet up with a friend and walk to the meeting spot – not only will you get a light exercise but you will also add some socialization to your schedule.

Walking is a low-intensity workout that will encourage positive thinking and improve alertness. Plus, exercises with a low impact are perhaps the best choice for individuals who suffer from panic attacks or some physical health problems which might lead to difficulties with breathing.

Running

If you feel like walking seems too slow, you can also opt for running. While many physical benefits have been proven like improvements in cardiac health and better weight management, the link between running and mental health still remains largely untested. However, according to some studies, running can also help us deal with our mental issues.

Just like walking, running does not have to require any special equipment. However, it’s in your best interest to get some comfy running shoes and appropriate workout clothes to experience all the perks. Plus, you can do it whenever you feel like it – whether it’s in the morning, in the evening, or in the middle of the day – especially when you’re feeling down.

On the other hand, you can also choose to purchase a treadmill for your home so that you still have a way to work out when you simply don’t feel like going out or when it’s too cold. Also, you can ask a friend to join a gym together and run on a treadmill there if you think investing in your own equipment is too much.

While still in the early stages, some research suggests that runners with depression and anxiety feel their thoughts quiet down during a run and they are more energetic after going on a run. Seeing as how these conditions also cause sleep deprivation, running can also improve the quality of one’s sleep. Other study participants believe that running improves their focus and memory.

Cycling

If you’re looking for some variety and are bored with running or walking every day, you can also try cycling. This low-impact way of exercising can easily be incorporated into your everyday schedule – for instance, when going to work or the nearby store and even while watching TV.

Luckily for you, if this is something that interests you, there are many ways how you can take up cycling. For example, joining a cycle class at a local gym means that you will have an instructor telling you how much you need to do and how to do it. On the other hand, if you don’t like setting goals that seem too hard to reach, you can also purchase a stationary bike for your home and do some cycling whenever you feel like it.

However, what is great about cycling is that it can also be done outside. Take your bike and go explore your town – it doesn’t have to be a long ride, 15 or 20 minutes can be enough. However, if you don’t like being alone or lack motivation, it might be good to find a workout buddy. By looking into quality tandem bikes, you can easily find a two-seater you can share and have even more fun. Finally, don’t forget about the necessary safety gear like knee guards and helmets.

If possible, opt for cycling outdoors as you will also get to enjoy the benefits of fresh air and getting some vitamin D. Like most types of physical activity, cycling also helps reduce stress and anxiety and it helps in the fight against depression. What is more, it promotes mindfulness and calmer thinking and it increases an individual’s self-esteem.

Swimming

Another great low-impact type of exercise comes in the form of swimming. Other than going easy on your joints, it’s also good for your lungs and muscles – and most importantly, your mental health.

If you have a pool in your home, make the most of it. If you have the funds and enough space, consider adding one. However, if all of these options are not possible, you can always go down to the local pool and start swimming. In case you live near a river or sea, this is also a great opportunity. Finding a way to start exercising this way should not be hard at all.

Swimming has many benefits for our wellbeing. For instance, it releases endorphins and helps relax your muscles. Furthermore, people also like swimming because being in water can drown out all external stimuli. The sounds of the world can be overwhelming for someone with a mental illness and this activity can help focus on breathing. This can aid with anxiety and depression tremendously.

Walking, running, cycling, swimming, and yoga are not the only options you have, of course. Besides these five, there are many other alternatives that suit different people. Some individuals prefer team sports so you can think about playing some baseball or basketball; others prefer golf and tennis while there are also people who like dancing. You can try out various approaches until you find some that help. Once you start feeling better, your motivation will skyrocket and this activity will become a part of your daily life.

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