When we think about exercising, we often jump right to how it will affect us physically. It’s a pretty wide consensus that working out makes us healthier physiologically. We’ll see better blood pressure rates, lose weight and see an increase in stamina so that going up and down three flights of stairs will feel like a breeze. However, one aspect we haven’t really seen discussed is how exercise can affect your mental health. Just as you probably thought, exercising regularly can actually make your mind feel better, too! Here are some exercises that will boost your mental health.
- Yoga: Yoga is one of the most mental health-based exercises out there. Because it focuses so much on maintaining balance between your muscles and your brain, yoga engages your mind in a way that other exercises do not. By zeroing in on how you’re breathing and where you’re placing your weight for different poses, you will soon find that you not only feel stronger physically but also mentally. After completing a yoga routine, you should feel calmer but more energetic. If you’re ever stressed or anxious, jump into a brief yoga routine and you’ll notice how much better you feel afterward. Plus, you can wear a fun pair of leggings and a cute yoga t-shirt. Don’t forget to switch your metal wedding bands out for a durable silicone ring. That way, your jewelry can stretch with you through all your yoga poses.
- Cardio: Cardio is another great exercise to do in order to boost your mental health. Ever heard of the “runner’s high”? Triggered by endorphins, the runner’s high is a combination of chemicals and emotions released in our brains that make us feel less pain and happier overall. Who doesn’t want that? Consider lacing up for a run if you’re feeling stressed or depressed. If you have some joint issues or your doctors have told you not to engage in exercises such as running, consider going for a brisk walk instead. That way, you can still experience the mental health benefits of exercising outdoors. Fresh air really is good for the mind!
- Weight Training: For those who are intimidated by jumping into running or feel nervous about their ability to do yoga, weight training is a great alternative. Lifting weights can not only shape your muscles and make them look better, but you will soon find that your cognition improves and your anxiety decreases. It’s a great way to ease yourself into the habit of exercising. Once you feel comfortable in how you’re progressing in weight training, you can then transition into more intense workouts, including cardio and even Pilates. A lot of times, people combine weight resistance training, using kettlebells, with exercise routines like HIIT, high-intensity interval training. It combines cardio movements with weight training to maximize your exercise results. Just make sure to wear a silicone wedding band in place of your metal ring to avoid any injuries.
- Pilates: Speaking of Pilates, did you know it’s also a great mental health exercise? It improves concentration, decreases depression and anxiety, plus it helps with better sleep habits. Since Pilates focuses on controlling your muscles and breathing properly to maximize your core strength, it makes sense that it would help with mental health. A lot of people overlook Pilates as a source of mental health boosts because of the type of exercises included in the routines. However, Pilates can really increase your breathing and relaxation, perfect for anyone who suffers from any mental health issues. After doing a couple of Pilates classes or routines, you’ll notice your memory is sharper and that you have better sleep cycles.
- Spin Classes: Even though spin is a type of cardio, the explosive trend behind stationary cycling puts it into a category all its own. Spin studios are, in fact, an experience. From the lighting to the instructors to the routines, it all comes together in a mental-health-and-exercise combination that will leave you feeling breathless in the best way possible. Finding a great instructor who makes you feel present and in the moment, not caring how anyone else in the class is doing, can really go a long way in ensuring that you’re getting the most out of spin. While it might be tempting to get a spin bike and do classes via a program at home, science has told us that an individual’s mental health does better the more they’re around people. Of course, going to a spin class for the first time can be daunting, so grab a friend and try it out. Who knows? You might make great friends from your spin class and have others to help you reach your fitness goals.
- Boxing: Sometimes you just need to hit something. Another type of cardio that’s in a class all its own, boxing can help you alleviate stress – and anger! In fact, boxing can be a great outlet to process your anger in a healthy way. Instead of throwing objects at people (or throwing your hands at them!), you can hit a punching bag in a controlled environment. Using a trainer as an aide, you can learn how to channel any anger, depression or anxiety into the equipment boxing uses. You’ll also learn about breath control and strategies for better transferring your anger. After a boxing session, you’ll probably walk away feeling empowered and ready to take on the world.
- Martial Arts: One of the best combinations of exercise and meditation, martial arts remains a great source of healing and empowerment for many people. Usually dubbed “the sport for kids,” martial arts can actually be helpful for people of all ages. There are many different types of martial arts, and they each come with their own sets of moves, traditions and purposes. The most common tend to be karate and jujitsu, both influenced by Chinese and Japanese cultures. However, more and more people are leaning towards Krav Maga, taekwondo and – especially for those who suffer from mental health issues – tai chi. Each of these types of martial arts is perfect for anyone who is looking to learn patience, control and some cool combat moves.