5 Exercises to Improve your Mental Health

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Mental health is more than just the absence of a physical illness. It is an integral part of a person’s health and well-being. Two years since the pandemic, mental health issues have been on a rise. Around 57.8 million people in America suffer from mental illness.1 Below are 5 exercises to improve your mental health. You can try anyone or make a mix of them.

Lifestyle has been one of the possible reasons to increasing mental health problems. Current sedentary lifestyle such as high processed food, little or no exercise, long sitting hours, irregular sleep hours etc. have adversely affected mental health along with physical health. That is why, sitting is called the ‘new smoking’. This lifestyle, if modified, can act as a treatment to a number of mental health problems. Staying active, exercise, healthy food, regular sleep hours are all part of lifestyle modifications.

Science behind Impact of Exercise

Research suggests that exercise can reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood which improves self-esteem and cognitive function.2 Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and HPA (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis which can cause improvement in stress levels. This is mediated by the communication of HPA axis with different regions of brain such as limbic system that controls motivation and mood; amygdala that generates fear in response to stress; and hippocampus that plays a part in memory function and mood.3 Additionally, exercise is also linked to improvement in physical condition, reduced risk of heart diseases and weight loss, which in turn have an impact on a person’s mental health.

How do I start?

Evidence indicates that exercising even for 30 minutes can improve mental health.4 That is, to say, even small amounts of physical activity can help. When you do consider starting out, ask yourself some questions. Do you  prefer working out indoors or outdoors? If sports activities seem too much to you, do you want to try something else? Walking, dance etc. are physical activities too. Would rather workout with somebody or prefer doing it alone? Social support is also a great motivator to help you focus and sustain.

Starting something new in your lifestyle might seem quite difficult, especially when you’re suffering from a mental health issue. Remember , the first step is usually the most difficult one and gets easier from thereon. While some exercise would require an equipment for you to rent or buy, others can be completely free. Some may be intense, while others may be low impact. Regardless of financial or physical requirements, you can always find an exercise to suit yourself or even better, make a mix of them.

Types of Exercises to Improve Mental Health

1) Running

Running- exercises to improve mental health

 An intense form of exercise, running can release endorphins in your brain that boost mood giving rise to positive feeling in the body. Sustained running can also lead to improved sleep and good heart.

2) Yoga

Exercises to Improve Mental Health

 Yoga is more than just a workout. Breathing exercises help in reflection and meditation of the soul, which in turn improves mental health. Additionally, controlled breathing leads to lower heart rate and blood pressure. There are a variety of Yoga poses to choose from, each having their own set of benefits. For example, Surya Namaskar itself constitutes 12 different poses, each with numerous benefits.  

3) Dance

A great mood booster with music and movement, dance not only helps reduce depression and anxiety but also builds positive energy. If you do not like the conventional form of workout, a zumba, salsa, hip-hop, free flow, tango can calm your nerves.

4) Strength Training

Strength Training- Mental Health

Strength training exercises can help relieve symptoms of depression.5 You can also do this at home with the help of free weights, resistance band and body weight. Weight training takes mind off other things and focuses just on the muscles. Further, increased muscle definition and blood flow helps improve stress levels of the body.

5) Walking

Walking- Exercises to improve mental health

‘Something is better than nothing’, they say. This is also true in terms of physical activity. When you feel like doing nothing at all, you may still take a step forward and choose a realistic goal in terms of time or number of steps. For instance, starting with 10-15 minutes of walk everyday, can reduce 26% risk of being depressed. If it is around nature, even better. Researchers say nature walks tend to reduce anxiety.

The Impact

In addition to direct mental health benefits, exercise is known to cause improved sleep, increased energy, better endurance, reduced tiredness, reduced cholesterol, improved cardiovascular health and weight loss.6

Read similar blogs:

Patterns To Break While Dealing With Depression


1:  https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness

2: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15255923/

3: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15518309/

4: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1469029222000401?via%3Dihub

5: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7460504/

6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/#i1523-5998-8-2-106-b

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