It’s no secret that physical exercise can improve mental well-being. While staying active may have profoundly positive effects on your physical health - improving muscular strength, flexibility and endurance - it can also help to reduce stress, boost mood and improve sleeping patterns. If you’re struggling with your mental health, the best thing you can do is reach out to loved ones and speak with your doctor; however, a little physical activity can do wonders. Here are some of the best forms of exercise to help improve your mental health.
The ancient discipline of yoga has long been considered an effective method of practising mindfulness. Mindfulness - the act of bringing one’s attention to the present-moment experience - is considered to be beneficial in managing stress and reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yoga aims to quiet the mind by encouraging participants to focus on deep breathing, cultivating a sense of peace and well-being. Consider joining a local yoga class where you can receive guidance from a qualified yoga teacher or simply purchase a yoga mat and follow an online tutorial, of which there are many.
Most public swimming pools offer aqua aerobics and aquafit classes. Aqua aerobics is an excellent form of low-impact exercise, suitable for a wide range of physical abilities. While aqua aerobics is a relatively gentle activity, the natural resistance of water helps to strengthen muscles and get your heart pumping, improving cardiovascular health. This fun, light-hearted group activity can be a fantastic way to meet new people and form meaningful connections - something that can vastly improve your mental well-being.
The incredible physical and mental benefits of swimming are enjoyed by many. While this extraordinary form of gentle cardio is known to boost mood and reduce stress levels, you can take things one step further by taking to the great outdoors. Wild swimming, when practised safely and responsibly, has the added benefit of cold water therapy, which increases the production of mood-elevating hormones and neurotransmitters. If you want to give wild swimming a go, join a local group and only swim where it is safe and legal to do so.
Aside from the physical benefits of boxing, such as increased hand-eye coordination and improved cardiovascular health, the psychological benefits of this competitive combat sport are plentiful. Boxing can be a remarkably effective way to manage stress and release pent-up frustration. Furthermore, you don’t need to go up against a competitor to participate in boxing - all you need is a punching bag and a pair of gloves. That said, amateur competitive boxing can be an excellent way to release endorphins and boost your self-esteem.
Jogging is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise, promoting strong, healthy muscles and bones. That said, jogging is considered an endurance sport, and it is wildly unreasonable to expect beginners to run a marathon immediately. Start small, stock up on sports drinks and train around three times per week to improve your endurance. Joggers and runners often experience what is known as “runner’s high” - a rush of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals that relieve pain, reduce stress and elevate your sense of well-being.
Getting out into nature for some fresh air can be profoundly beneficial for your mental health. As little as 10 minutes of brisk walking can increase mental alertness and boost energy levels. Not only that but surrounding yourself with beautiful natural scenery can be a wonderful, mindful experience, effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Hiking is also a fantastic way to increase your physical fitness without having to join a gym or invest in expensive exercise equipment - all you need is some weather-appropriate clothes and a pair of robust walking shoes.
While any form of moving your body can be beneficial to your mental well-being, dancing offers the extra factor of self-expression. Feeling unable to express yourself can be emotionally damaging; hence why so many holistic approaches to mental health management involve creative outlets, such as arts and crafts. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a childhood background in dance to begin a local class. Consider joining a local adult dance class where you can blow off steam and tap into your creative side.