5 Physical Activities to Boost Mental Health
The connection between mind and body is as ancient as Greek philosophy. Western medicine is catching up with the concept that the link between body and mind is evident.
Researchers are discovering that sedentary habits lead to poor mental health and vice versa. A study assessing the mental health of 8,000 adults wearing an accelerometer for four to seven days produced data about the relationship between physical and mental health. The data shows that those who do not move around during their day feel worse than people who live active lifestyles.
What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
A sedentary lifestyle is one in which people sit or do things that do not expel much energy if any energy at all. When people are awake, many sit at desks for work or school. Not moving is not good for a person’s physical or mental health.
It is easy for anyone, depressed or not, to settle into a sedentary lifestyle. People may realize the negative physical effects, but the mental side effects are as dangerous and harmful.
Here are five ways to be more active on a daily basis and see an associated boost in stress-relieving effects.
1. Walking Works Out Stress
Intense cardio is not meant for everyone, but it does count toward the betterment of mental health. The study of 8,000 participants showed that up to 5,000 steps a day improved mental health.
The average amount of time it takes to walk and feel mentally energized is only 60 minutes a day. Simply taking a walk in order to feel better is more than possible. Quality of life and the reduction of depression are positive outcomes of taking a daily stroll.
Some studies show an afternoon walk is the equivalent to antidepressant medication. It works for people who aren’t depressed, too.
2. Alleviating Anxiety With Aerobics
Scientists found that people who participated regularly in aerobics classes saw several benefits. The social aspect of the high-intensity classes produces higher self-esteem. Studies on aerobics show elevated or stabilized moods, decrease in tension and general anxiety, and improved sleep quality.
The duration of an aerobics class does not affect the outcome. Even 30 minutes a week shows improvement in mental health.
3. A Little Faster for Focus
People who multitask have issues with activities that require sustained concentration like:
- Trouble with test taking and studying skills
- Jobs that require monotonous activity
- Driving for long periods of time
- Reading a book
- Daily activities like showering and eating a full meal
Our ancestors ran from predators to survive. The flight or fight extinct gives us a mental boost by speeding up the heart rate to survive, which increases our ability to focus. Now, people rarely experience flight or fight responses.
However, hiking and jogging release the same brain chemicals as running from a dangerous situation and can improve focus.
4. Yoga Reduces Stress and PTSD Symptoms
The fact that yoga reduces stress is pretty well known. The research behind it shows that yoga increases the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter in the brain. The increase of GABA levels tends to counteract anxiety and other mental illnesses.
Studies also show that people with PTSD show signs of improvement when treated with yoga. Physical activity and breathing exercises are doubly helpful.
5. Lifting Weights to Lift the Weight of Anxiety
Approximately 15% of Americans report frequent anxiety. It sometimes lasts 15 to 30 days a month. Symptoms include nervousness, fear or apprehension, and worry. If untreated, anxiety leads to:
- Poor sleep
- Aches and pains
- Poor physical and mental health
- Life limitations
Research shows that lifting weights is a meaningful way to treat anxiety. It does not have to be high intensity, either. Taking it easy has a better effect on mental wellness than exerting yourself.
Getting up and moving has a positive overall effect. It is the small things that make all the difference. For updated trends and research about mental health, check out our other articles.