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The Best Exercises For Your Mental Health

Many of us have experienced how exercise can improve our mood and mental health. We know there's a direct link between working out and our brain. We're going to take a look at some of the best exercises to improve mood and lower anxiety. There's evidence that exercise induces changes in a part of the brain that regulates the body's stress response. While exercise initially spikes levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, the levels of those hormones drop after physical activity, which may lead to feelings of decreased stress. For people with a diagnosed anxiety disorder exercise may complement first-line treatments, like anti-anxiety medicines and cognitive behavioural therapy. While further research is needed, exercise might even be a way to prevent or treat anxiety disorders, per researchers in the 2020 book 'Physical Exercise for Human Health' 🧠

A man running on a beach at sunset for his mental health

The Best Exercises For Our Mental Health Cardio You don't have to be an elite athlete to gain mental health benefits from engaging in physical activity. Research suggests that any type of exercise that improves how well your heart and lungs deliver oxygen to your muscles during a workout can reduce anxiety. And there are plenty of exercise options, from running, swimming, and biking to brisk walking. If running's your thing, that can be helpful too. Running causes lasting changes in our 'feel good' neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, both during and after exercise. Running may make it easier for you to fall asleep at night. Sleep can benefit your overall mental health by boosting your mood, lowering stress, and helping you think more clearly. Interval Training Some people with anxiety might want to try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This type of exercise involves repeated bouts of high exertion followed by periods of recovery. In small studies, HIIT appears to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Researchers in Spain recruited 67 otherwise healthy adults who were confined to their homes during a COVID-19 lockdown period to participate in a trial of home-based exercise. Volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two exercise groups: HIIT or moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Each group exercised for the same period of time: 40 minutes six days a week. After six weeks, each type of training resulted in reductions in anxiety and stress, according to study results published in 2021 in 'Frontiers in Psychology'. Nature Walks How about a dose of Mother Nature to ease anxious feelings? An expanding body of research suggests there may be therapeutic benefits to moving your body in natural settings, at least in the short term. Nature has a calming effect on the mind. A 2015 study published in the journal 'Landscape and Urban Planning', for example, discovered that when young adults went on a 50-minute nature walk, they felt less anxious and had improved memory function. Yoga As a form of low-impact exercise, yoga has been shown to lower stress hormones in our bodies while simultaneously increasing beneficial brain chemicals like endorphins and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). These feel-good chemicals help decrease anxiety and improve mood. Over time, yoga's effects also are believed to slow the natural aging process - there is less brain shrinkage in the areas of the brain that process information and store memories, Dr. Keenmon says. "Making yoga a part of our lives can help protect against the effects of aging on our memory and cognition."


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