We consult specialists to determine which workouts best enhance both our physical and emotional welfare in light of the NHS’s recent adoption of physical exercise as a form of therapy.
We all know that exercising can increase our physical strength, but how many of us set fitness objectives with the intention of enhancing our mental health?
Lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic have made it clear to us that power exercises can help with sadness and anxiety if we weren’t already aware of them. According to a survey of more than 1000 Britons conducted by fitness club Total Fitness, 38% of UK people regularly exercise to boost their mood and reduce stress. More than one in four adults (27%) — notably parents — turn to exercise as a way to unwind.
Running is the most popular form of exercise, according to the survey. The “runner’s high” is a well-known endorphin-fueled phenomenon, but researchers at University College London found that increasing activity levels from zero to participating in three exercise sessions a week reduced the risk of depression by about 20%.
How frequently should you work out for mental health advantages?
Don’t worry if three sessions per week seem out of reach right now; starting small with just one session per week will still have an impact. According to Australian researchers, if participants engaged in just one hour of physical activity each week, depression occurrences would drop by 12%.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests that people with mild to moderate depression engage in three activity sessions lasting 45 minutes to an hour over the course of 10 to 14 weeks to benefit from the mood-enhancing effects of exercise, which is prescribed by doctors nationwide as a treatment for depression among other conditions.
Since the pandemic has caused a rise in health anxiety for many of us, knowing that exercise will support our immune systems and prevent weight gain will be encouraging. Obesity is one of the factors that can worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.
Exercising for mental well-being
Don’t dismiss a little rambling until you’ve given this exercise a try; it’s the easiest, most accessible, and most affordable of all. Jacqueline Hurst, a clinical hypnotherapist and master life coach, suggests placing one step in front of the other to enhance mental wellbeing:
“Any exercise is a terrific idea, is my main piece of advice here. Even a brief, ten-minute stroll through nature can be quite beneficial to mental health. It’s crucial to keep in mind that the greatest place to begin is by exercising your body in a natural and enjoyable manner. Don’t set too many demanding objectives. If you do that, it’s less likely that you’ll want to do it, which will result in it getting done less frequently.
Yoga for mental well-being
Perhaps an obvious choice, but yoga could be the perfect addition to walking if you’d want something a little more dynamic or stretching (both physically and mentally):
“Try yoga if you enjoy soft movement. It’s incredibly calming, and it tops my list of things to do to get people in touch with themselves because it can be very empowering to begin focusing and connecting with your breath and your body. When you’re on your mat and in the zone, it’s difficult to hide, which may be really therapeutic.
Water exercise for mental health
Jacqueline has observed customers benefit from just ten minutes of swimming each day, even if we are now unable to visit the gym or leisure center. This is another low-impact, non-weight-bearing option. The most crucial factor is whether or not you love it; if you dread being in the water at all, leave and try something else. Both the physical benefits you will experience and your enthusiasm for the activity are crucial.
Jacqueline emphasizes: “Notice how you are thinking about the activity beforehand, as well as how you will feel after the workout. In other words, when you have a sound mind, it leads to sound behaviour. Before acting, you must first think the appropriate things in your mind.
HIIT exercises for mental well-being
Due to an increase in cortisol and adrenaline, high-intensity exercise has a reputation for raising stress levels. However, as you become more active, you should find that your body adapts to this, learns to cope, and becomes more resilient over time, which may support stress coping mechanisms in daily life.
Sandy Macaskill, co-owner and master trainer of Barry’s Bootcamp, firmly believes that brief exercise sessions can benefit mental health rather than harm it:
Exercise is a terrific way to get out of your head for a little, to stop worrying, and to focus on something positive, according to anecdotal evidence from talking to customers. The finest aspect of exercising, in my opinion, is the endorphin rush you receive afterward.
Cycling and spin classes for mental health
Nothing beats the feeling of free-wheeling down a hill on your bike while feeling the wind in your hair clear your mind of troubles.
According to Psycle CEO and instructor Rhian Stephenson, the idea behind Psycle’s spin classes was to promote better mental wellness.