Support your Mental Health with Physical Activity
Your mental and emotional health are just as important as your physical health – possibly more! Being mentally healthy makes it much easier to stay regularly active and choose healthful and nutritious foods. Exercise is a wonderful and necessary thing to keep your body feeling well and maintaining muscle tone; however, there are so many more beautiful things about exercising. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that exercise is only good for “staying trim” or losing weight, and definitely don’t berate someone who is physically slim for exercising. Do you know how many times I’ve heard, “why do you exercise? You’re already skinny!”
The benefits of physical activity and exercise go far beyond the physical aesthetic. In fact, that’s one of the least important aspects of exercise. That “skinny exerciser” may use her regular workout as a way to stave off crippling fatigue or anxiety. Exercise is particularly great for a whole spectrum of areas of emotional and mental health. Particularly right now, as so many of us are struggling with extra stress and irregular routines, you can find some healing in physical activity.
Physical exercise can encourage socialization. Even solitary, non-competitive sports like running can be done in groups, and many people find this helps motivate them – not to mention it’s more fun. Finding a community within your sport which helps connect you to the sport and to others on a deeper level is amazing. Exercising in a group can make you feel like you’re part of something – this in itself is a great thing for your mind and body alike.
Stave off Depression and Anxiety
Exercise is fantastic for mental wellbeing. The science is all there – human beings are designed for movement, mobility, and activity. We thrive on being able to run, walk, jump, climb, swim and exert our muscles. Even if hardcore exercise isn’t for you, simple stretching or less intense sports such as walking and gentle swimming can release endorphins in your brain and give you an incredible feeling. Give activity the chance to help you feel as renewed and refreshed as you deserve.
Try Something New and Promote Brain Function
Trying a new activity is great for both your mind and your body. If you love sports and practice your favorite sport regularly, you might be tempted just to stick with what you know. However, trying cost-effective new activities which require learning a new skill, such as hand-eye coordination, helps your mind adapt, stretch and overcome new challenges. This is highly beneficial for your development, and has been strongly connected with lower occurrence of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Stuck on what to try? Check out this list of options:
- Pickleball – Pickleball is a mixture of tennis and badminton, and requires a teammate. All you need is a buddy, a paddle, and a whiffleball. While you’re at it, pick you up some court shoes for pickleball. My mom’s been playing pickleball at her local gym for a few years and I’ve joined her a few times. It’s a great workout and a ton of fun!
- Pilates – Mostly mat work, pilates is great for low-impact strengthening work for core and back stability, as well as lower body strengthening. It is an excellent way to stabilize joints and prevent back pain.
- Rock Climbing – If you have a local gym with a climbing wall, give it a go! There are few equivalent exercises for functional upper body work. The key, though, is to work on using your lower body whenever possible so you can climb for more than a few minutes before your arms give out!
- Dancing – It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like dancing in front of others, you can try hip hop, Latin, or cardio dance from the comfort of your living room with free Youtube dance workouts. Who cares how you look? Just move and have fun!
- Martial Arts – From Tai Chi to Muy Thai and everything in between, martial arts have so many benefits: balance, flexibility, discipline, and self-defense skills.
There are so many more ways to stay active, you’d be surprised! I even had a client recently who participates in arm wrestling competitions! Whatever you think you might be interested in, there’s a group of people out there doing it. If you haven’t find your “thing” yet, don’t give up. Your mental health (not to mention the physical health benefits) is worth the journey to find an activity you’ll enjoy doing long-term. Keep at it!
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