How can exercise help your mental health?
Happy body, happy brain
If we learned anything from 2020, it’s that mental health is really important, especially as we get used to a new normal. Walking in the fresh air, taking up yoga or even dancing to your favourite song, one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to help us feel on top of the world is to move our bodies.
Not convinced? Stick with us for a mental health and exercise extravaganza. We’ll talk you through how the two are connected (not too much science, we promise), along with some tips and tricks to get you off the sofa and into your activewear.
Positivity from the inside out
We know that being active is great for our physical health, but did you know moving your body causes chemical changes in your brain? These feel-good chemicals are called endorphins, and they help to change your mood for the better.
Getting your heart pumping can also help you manage feelings of worry or anxiety. And because the body and the mind work hand in hand, you’ll focus on your body’s movements rather than what’s going on in your mind when you exercise. Cool, right?
But the benefits of exercise don’t stop there! If you’re struggling to snooze when hitting the hay, try being active during the day. Doing something physical can help you drift off into dreamland because you’re more tired when it comes to bedtime. Want to know more about the benefits of exercise? Give this a read.
Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes. If you’re not up for being a marathon runner – kudos to you if you are – why not try putting one foot in front of the other? Yep, walking is the simplest and easiest form of exercise.
Being in the great outdoors (even if it’s a small amount of time while following COVID-19 restrictions) can work wonders for your mind, helping you process thoughts and feelings with every step. With a clear head, you’ve got more energy to concentrate on things other than unwanted thoughts – don’t knock a ramble in nature (or a walk around the block) until you’ve tried it!
Fancy something more stretching? Yoga could be just the thing! Its superpower is helping you to feel more connected to your body through gentle exercises like deep breathing. Breathing in and out as you stretch can help calm your mind and make you more mindful of your body and surroundings. Sound like your cup of tai-chi (we mean tea)? Check out the pros of meditation and mindfulness with Headspace – you won’t regret it!
We know it can be tricky to make time for exercise on top of all the other things on your daily to-do list. Exercise can be a great way to break up the working day so block out your lunchtimes and lace up your running shoes. Leave the daily stress at your desk (even if you’re working from home) and prioritise yourself.
Why not treat yourself to a fitness tracker to help stay motivated? You could even buddy up and run or walk with a friend or join a group, as long as the COVID-19 tier you’re in says you can.
Don’t forget to celebrate your progress, seeing how far you’ve come is another great motivator to help keep your mental health in check.
Psst! If you’re not feeling your best for whatever reason, don’t be too hard on yourself for not exercising every day. Everyone goes at their own pace – it’s not about crossing the finish line first. If you’re not able to leave your home, everyday things like gardening, vacuuming or cleaning can help to keep you on your feet. And chores can be great for your mental health as well. It’s OK to do things differently.
Remember to check-in with your GP if you have a medical condition and are thinking of trying any new forms of exercise.
So let’s re-cap. Moving your body any which way you like can make a big difference in how you think and feel. It’s a great tool to help you lead a more positive life – and it doesn’t have to cost a thing!