The benefits of exercise for mental health
As a personal trainer, so many people come to me and tell me that they are fed up with pounding on the treadmill every day. And I tell them that fitness doesn’t have to be so predictable! There’s nothing wrong with running on a treadmill, but there is so much more you can get out of working out.
Exercise includes walking, yoga, swimming, dancing, stretching – anything that gets your heart pumping and your muscles working – and it doesn’t have to be boring either.
The list of the benefits of exercise is endless. Weight management, strength, increased heart health and better skin, to name a few.
But the benefits to us mentally are of paramount importance in 2021 and beyond.
The Impact of Lockdown and Mental Health
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on us all mentally.
For most of us, the structure of our day has been lost. Our gym sessions that were once firmly booked in the diary as part of our routine have disappeared. The pandemic has forced us to spend more time alone than ever before, and the mental impact of that has been enormous.
But regular exercise can have a hugely positive impact on your mental health, helping to produce feel-good endorphins and helping to decrease anxiety and depression, as well as negative mood. It has been shown to boost self-esteem and increase our quality of sleep.
What Exercise is Best for Mental Health?
If you’ve been out of the fitness habit for a while, walking is a great place to start.
You will quickly see your fitness levels improve with this low impact exercise. Suitable for people of all fitness levels, walking will help improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and get your muscles moving. Create a fun, upbeat playlist or download an interesting podcast and listen as you walk, allowing your mind to wander.
Yoga and stretching will also hugely benefit those with poor mental health.
Yoga can initially appear intimidating, and allowing your body to move and stretch in new ways can be challenging at first. However, taking some time to push your body and focus on your breathing is a great way to escape the demands that each day throws at us and build your inner and outer strength.
Do not be fooled by the idea that the ability to do a headstand, or even touch your toes, is required for yoga! The practice is hugely adaptable, and you will easily find something suited to your ability level.
Try HIIT for an intense sweat! HIIT is actually known to spike your stress levels initially, due to the influx in adrenaline. However, as your resilience builds, this exercise will dramatically improve your mental and physical health, so it’s worth sticking with it.
It will clear your head, improve your fitness, blast fat, and build muscle. As the HIIT name suggests, this exercise includes working to your absolute maximum for brief periods, before taking a rest.
Make Sure You Set Realistic Goals
Logging into social media and seeing your peers smash 50-mile cycles, 10-mile runs, and full-day hikes can be challenging if you’re feeling down and demotivated. But it’s important to continually remind yourself that it is perfectly normal to start with small goals, patting yourself on the back as you repeatedly crush your targets. You’re not expected to leap out of bed and run a marathon, nor should you feel under pressure to go beyond your comfort zone initially.
Consider starting with your step goal.
This might be as simple as aiming for 5000 steps a day, increasing week on week until you shatter your 10000 goal effortlessly. As you increase your steps and spend more time outdoors, you’ll feel your mental health start to improve. The boost you will get for reaching your goal daily will give you the much-needed encouragement to continue on your journey for better physical, and mental health.
The Fitness Room Honeybourne offers a friendly, safe gym environment, personal training, meal plans and support to help you on your fitness journey.
Call us on 07540 060269 for a free consultation and to find out more about how exercise can help improve your mental health.