Exercise. Hmm, probably your first association is ‘physical health’. But did you know that exercise can also have a great benefit for your mental health too? Let me be more specific, exercises can boost your mood, improve your energy levels, as well as help you deal with anxiety, stress, depression and other similar problems.

While most of the time physical benefits are helping in getting that first motivational spirit, previously mentioned mental health benefits are the actual motives that make most of the people stay active with the exercise.

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are a cluster of feel-good hormones in your body linked to an increase of mood and overall feeling of happiness. 

Now, in case you wondered, I will provide some examples of mental health boosting exercises.

Running (or jogging)

Running and jogging are aerobic cardiovascular exercises. Such activity sends more nourishing blood to the brain, which can help you think more clearly. It also releases your natural mood-elevating compounds.  Besides being proved that reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, running increases the amount of noradrenaline, a chemical that can moderate the brains response to stress. Moreover, while enhancing our mood, running helps us improve our sleep quality too.

Boxing

Besides physical, there are some mental health benefits you can expect to enjoy when you take up boxing. One of the most straightforward benefits of boxing is that it makes you feel good. Boxing involves a lot of exercise. In addition to enjoying better physical fitness, people who box also benefit from the endorphin release that accompanies that exercise. Not to mention, you also feel good from sleeping better after all that exercise! Boxing gives people a positive way to relieve their stress. We all get angry. Not having an outlet for that anger or coping tools for dealing with it can be unhealthy. Boxing provides an outlet for aggression. Nothing beats a heavy bag for that. In addition to punching away your anger at the heavy bag, boxing teaches you how to control your anger and stay focused. 

Pilates

The practice emphasizes breathing, focus, and mindfulness to help strengthen the bond between body and mind. A focus on stress reduction and relaxation further helps to clear the mind and improve the mood. Here are just a few of the mental health benefits that you may experience from practicing Pilates. Pilates can improve your focus both on and off the mat, strengthening your mind and your memory. Pilates and breathing exercises can help to reduce anxiety and the incidence of panic attacks in prone individuals. Practicing Pilates each day can help to relax both the mind and the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night. With a longer night and a deeper sleep, you can focus better during the daytime and wont have to worry about mental fatigue.

Yoga

One of the main reasons yoga helps us create better mental health is that it integrates body and mind.

There is growing evidence that yoga practice is a relatively low risk, high-benefit approach to improving overall health.

Yoga teaches deep, mindful breathing, self-awareness, meditation and connecting with our bodies, all of which are helpful tools for promoting mental/emotional well-being. Regular practice of yoga may help to decrease depression and anxiety levels, to relieve stress as well as improve sleep quality and quality of life.

Spin Classes

Cycling (indoors or outdoors) has also great mental and emotional benefits in addition to the physical benefits. In a recent study, scientists found that people scored higher on tests of memory, reasoning, and planning after 30 minutes of spinning on a stationary bike than they did before they rode.

Studies have also found that cycling is particularly effective when it comes to getting endorphins pumping, resulting in a boost of mental health.”

When we are on a bike, our brain encourages neurogenesis which is the growing of new brain cells. This improves our cognitive abilities. While this may sound like a blessing for an aging brain, its a very good thing for young brains too, especially if those people suffer from anxiety. Moreover, after every cycling or spinning session, our bodies improve their ability to regulate cortisol and adrenaline production, two important hormones for the mood.

Resistance Training

Lifting weight or bodyweight exercises might inflate not only your muscles, but also your mood. Here are some mental health benefits of resistance training:

  • May help reduce or prevent cognitive decline in older people.
  • Improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training may boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and your mood.
  • Improved sleep and avoidance of insomnia.
  • Increased self-esteem.

Moreover, one study found that people with mild to moderate depression who performed resistance training saw significant reductions in their symptoms, compared with people who did not. The findings also suggested that resistance exercises may be even more beneficial for those with more severe symptoms of depression.

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