Can exercising make us calmer? We’re more aware than ever of the mind-body connection, and regular exercise has been scientifically linked to lower incidences of depression and other mental health issues, so most experts on the subject would say “yes.” However, when it comes to stress and anxiety, certain fitness pursuits are more effective than others, and it’s not always easy to hit the “pause” button on the thinking part of the brain. To help you enhance your physical and mental wellbeing, here are five fitness pursuits to help you keep calm and live more mindfully.
Many people think of golf as a mainly physical activity, but it is also incredibly beneficial to your mental health. This popular game requires interaction with others, concentration and outdoor movement, all of which help the brain function at optimum levels. Combining exercise with exposure to fresh air and greenery is one of the most important things you can do for your body and mind, and golf comes with the added bonus of being fun! To find golf lessons near you, visit the HulaHub website and sign up for free.
Yoga is often hailed as enhancing flexibility and balance, but its benefits go way beyond the physical. In addition to improving body awareness, relieving muscle tension and reducing inflammation, yoga also calms the body’s central nervous system, reducing stress. The concentration and mindful breathing work as coping strategies for anxiety and depression, making yoga one of the most beneficial fitness pursuits in the world – and one that continues to grow in popularity.
Tai Chi is a gentle martial-arts-inspired exercise that has been known to reduce stress, improve sleep and increase self-esteem in those who practice. Tai Chi is often recommended for chronic pain sufferers, as well as those diagnosed with mental illness or stress. The combination of self-awareness, posture and flow of breath taught in the practice are thought to promote self-healing and improve overall wellness. Although it has been a staple of good health for centuries in the East, Tai Chi has become increasingly popular in the West over the last few years; so you should be able to find a class to join locally or a tutorial to follow online.
Although it is a high-impact exercise most people do to burn calories, running has been shown to improve mood in a variety of ways. The repetitive motions are thought to have a meditative effect on the brain while releasing endorphins and serotonin into the bloodstream. Running is also highly beneficial to those suffering from depression: in a recent study, researchers found that running worked in a similar way to antidepressants, alleviating major depressive disorder by promoting the growth of new neurons in the brain.
While it’s no fancy fitness regime, walking is still one of the best exercises you can do to promote physical and emotional wellness. Getting outdoors works wonders for your mental health and stimulates feel-good hormones that can last for up to seven hours after a walk has taken place. Walking also helps you burn calories, particularly if you can reach 10,000 steps per day.