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Simple exercise ideas to improve your mental health

Step away from the desk and improve much more than your fitness.

World Mental Health Day on the 10th October reminded us to work on our wellbeing as well as our office-based deadlines. Here we run through five physical activities to boost your mental health.

Running
You’ve probably heard of a ‘runners high’, or even experienced one yourself. Although people have enjoyed jogging for many generations it wasn’t until 2008 that a German study identified where the good mood often associated with running comes from. Endorphins are released from the brain in response to physical discomfort, so while you shouldn’t try to achieve a four-minute mile, you’ll feel the benefit of pushing your body to its limits.

Pilates
People often sign up for Pilates classes to improve their spinal health. The low-impact flexibility and muscular strength movements also have great benefits for mental health too. The founder of the exercise, Joseph Pilates, originally wanted to name his exercise ‘Controlology’ to reflect the importance of the mind when controlling the body. The focus on breathing while mobilising your body helps to switch on the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, leading to better sleep and relaxation.

Boxing
Boxing has long been regarded as the perfect exercise to vent your anger. Putting on a pair of gloves, however, offers so much more than a way to blow off some steam. The physically intense exercise can help build strength and in turn, boost your confidence. But it’s remembering the combinations of jabs and hooks that offer the most unexpected benefit. The complicated sequences are a great way of sharpening your memory and cognitive skills.

Yoga
Yoga is a truly holistic exercise. The various positions yogis put their students through in a typical lesson work with breathing techniques to help people get away from it all and ‘be in the moment’. Its fundamental ideas encourage people to relax while putting their body through its paces. A strange combination where downward dogs and other positions require balance while encouraging people to live a more balanced lifestyle.

Swimming
If you’re looking for a low impact exercise that targets all of your body while boosting your mental health, swimming could be the perfect option for you. Exercising in water helps to shed body fat and increase body confidence but the benefits don’t end there. According to a 2015 study, immersing yourself in water actually encourages blood flow to the brain improving its health with added oxygen and nutrients.

Image credits: monkeybusinessimages via iStock & Ridofranz via iStock

 

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