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The Mental Benefits of Physical Activity

For years, experts have been saying that one of the best ways to improve your mental health is to participate in regular physical exercise. Many studies have been done supporting the theory that physical activity can improve your mental wellbeing. Physical activity releases chemicals in your brain that help you to think more clearly, be in a better mood, and feel better overall. There are a lot of other mental and emotional benefits that come from regularly working out, including:

Yoga Class - The Mental Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Increased confidence. Exercising involves doing hard things, and it can result in your body looking more trim and athletic. Both of these things do well to boost your self-esteem and confidence.

  • More energy in a natural way. Forget your daily coffee, soda, or energy drink! Exercising at least three times a week is a great way to naturally boost your energy levels, allowing you to tackle every day without feeling sluggish.
  • Improved sleep. The chemicals that are released during exercise combined with the physical exertion that it requires adds up to a great night’s sleep. If you exercise regularly, you can expect to see an increase in the quality of your sleep.
  • Reduced anger and frustration. Participating in regular exercise has been shown to reduce anger and frustration levels. When you do feel upset, training harder is a healthy way of dealing with that anger.
  • A great way to have fun. If you are like me, the word “exercise” is synonymous with “self-torture.” However, that belief is a common misconception. Exercise does not have to be a painful experience. In fact, no matter how against exercise you may be, there is definitely an activity you can participate in that will help you get in a good workout and have some fun while you are at it. Read below for some of the best physical exercises for your mental health.

Physical Activity - The Mental Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical Activities to Improve Mental Health

First, I want to make it clear that any physical activity will have a positive impact on your mental health (and your emotional health, too). There are, however, some exercises that have a greater impact than others. Here are some of the most impactful ones.

  • Yoga. Instead of saving the best for last, I figured I would put it first on the list. There are very few activities that are better for your mental health than yoga is. The point of yoga is to uplift the mind, body, and spirit in an effort to promote relaxation and total wellness. When you engage in yoga, you can expect to participate in breath control exercises, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. With classes ranging from beginner to expert, there is a yoga class for everybody, no matter your mental or physical state may be.
  • Walking. Exercises do not have to be intense for them to benefit your mental health. Walking is great for your mind—especially when done outside in nature. A study was done that showed people who walked for only 20 minutes had an easier time concentrating, focusing, and being creative than people who had not walked at all. For a better workout, consider going on a hike or adding some incline to your treadmill.
  • Running. It is like walking, only faster. In all seriousness, while it is similar to walking, the intensity of running brings benefits that walking does not (and walking brings benefits that running does not). The clarity and expansion that people experience after a run is referred to as a “runner’s high.” Taking the time to run also gives you an opportunity to think things over, analyze, understand, and process the events in your life. In a way, it’s a form of self-therapy.

Dancing - The Mental Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Dancing. In addition to being a fabulous workout, dancing is great for your mental and emotional health because it is an art form. It is an expression of self. It is very therapeutic, especially for people who have difficulties expressing or feeling emotion, or who have experienced trauma in the past. In fact, it is often used as a form of occupational therapy due to the many positive effects that it brings. And the best part? You don’t need to be good at it for it to be fun, effective, or beneficial to your mental health.

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