In a world where stress, uncertainty and change are more prevalent than ever, nurturing our mental wellness has become imperative. Follow these simple steps to keep your mind, muscles, and mood in peak condition.
Regular exercise does so much more than building strong lean muscles and a healthy heart – it offers a wealth of “above-the-neck” benefits too. Exercise has been linked to everything from boosting brain power and helping control addiction, to inspiring creativity and reducing stress. So how do you get the most mental benefit from your workouts?
Find Your Sweet Spot – Moderation is Key
You don’t need to be a hardcore exerciser to reap the rewards. Experts say a moderate approach with shorter workouts will have the most profound effect on your mental wellbeing. One study of 1.2 million US adults found that people who exercise for 45-minute sessions enjoy better mental health than those who sweat it out during marathon workouts.
Know That Every Little Bit Counts
Adding as little as 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise to your morning routine is shown to provide an immediate mood boost. Not only will it quickly spark an endorphin high, but the positive effects can last up to 12 hours.
Those who accumulated at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days were 30 percent more likely to report being ‘happy’ than those who didn’t get their fitness fix.
Workout with Others
Researchers have identified that some types of exercise are superior when it comes to providing mental health benefits. Team sports seem to be the winner, followed by cycle-based exercise and then aerobics-based workouts at the gym. These top three suggest that, when it comes to mental health benefits, group-based activities are preferable.
Yoga-based exercise is highly regarded as a great mood booster, and recent studies indicate that yoga, specifically the mindful breathing associated with it, can be used to ease the symptoms of depression. If you want to maximize the bliss-inducing benefits of yoga, experts recommend you do it just before bed. Pre-sleep stretching and meditation session can have a significant impact on your sleep quality, boost positive feelings, and enhance recovery from mental as well as physical stress.
Many scientists believe lifting weights can have a similar effect to antidepressant medications or psychotherapy. And you don’t need to lift heavy. The mental health benefits of lifting weights kick in regardless whether you’re lifting the heaviest or the lightest weights in the gym. It’s not all about the strength you build, but the feeling of accomplishment and confidence that goes hand-in-hand with resistance training.
Train Your Mind
Mindfulness practices can affect the plasticity of brain structure and functioning. When this happens, the main neurocognitive mechanisms affected include emotional regulation, self-awareness, and attention control.
Mindfulness meditation encourages our minds to operate less reactively, helping us function more seamlessly when emotions are activated.
Our physical and mental health are intertwined – so staying active is one of the fundamental ways we maintain emotional and cognitive resilience.