Excercise and Mental Health
Mental Health,  Tips & Advice

5 Exercises for Mental Health

5 Exercises for Anxiety and Depression

There are several different studies that show the benefits of these exercises for anxiety and depression. A review from Harvard University shows multiple studies going as far back as 1981 found that regular exercise, this means 3-5 days a week, can help people with mild to moderate depression, and it also play a key factor for people with severe depression.

Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve the effects of depression and anxiety. Several studies in Archives of Internal Medicine also show that the effects of exercise can last longer than any antidepressant.

But don’t forget anxiety, Multiple studies have found that exercise reduces feelings of anxiety and boosts other positive feelings. Exercise can be an equally, if not more, effective than medication. Check out my other post to understand more about Anxiety.

It has worked better for me personally then the SSRIs the doctor prescribes me. I have found several different forms of exercise that I would recommend trying. Don’t expect to find the perfect exercise for you right off. Give all of them a try and find the one you enjoy the most. It is critical to enjoy the exercise, so you will want to keep doing it.

Running

Running is a great exercise for anxiety! It releases endorphins. The natural feel good chemical your body produces! Not to mention these effects are not short term!  I love to run, not only for my mental health but for my physical health as well. There is something about running several miles that makes you feel accomplished. I always feel a sense of pride after my runs. Especially when I improve my

running times. I remember when I was pregnant, the one thing I missed was running outside. The fresh air, the trees, and seeing the distance as I slowly progressed.

I didn’t start off running 3 or 5 miles. In fact, that seemed insane to me. I started with a mile. Then I decided to challenge myself to a mile and a half. Slowly, as I became comfortable with a mile and a mile and a half, I would bump it up to 2, 2 and a half and then 3. But I did not do three miles every day. It would fluctuate. I would do intense days where I was pushing myself then slower days.

The key is to start off with what your comfortable with then push yourself once that become too easy. If you can’t run outside, go to a gym. I started running on a treadmill when it became scorching outside. Living in Florida, it wasn’t just the heat but the humidity! So, I adapted to a treadmill. Find what works for you and do it at least 4 days a week.

For you mothers, 4 days a week at a gym or outside may not be an option. After all, we have children we can’t just leave by themselves. If your spouse or partner is unable to watch them during the day, you can try early in the morning. This is something I did while my spouse worked full time. That may seem crazy and trust me I am not a morning person. My secret is Caffeine chews! One cube does the trick and I am out the door running!

Yoga

Now let me just say, this was not an exercise that worked for me. However, I now of several people that have benefitedfrom yoga. I did try this exercise a couple of times to see how

it would affect me and my mental health. It is a calming environment. The music and even the instructors voice helps the stress melt away. Studies show that people who do yoga experiences significant reductions in anxiety and depression.

Some of the poses seem a little, well impossible for me. But just like you must start small for running, you must start somewhere with yoga. As you continue with it, your flexibility and strength will progress. Soon you will be doing these crazy poses that would blow anyone’s mind!

If this is something you like, and it help you find peace, then stick with it. Find the time to do it at least 4 days a week. If you can’t go to a gym, buy a yoga DVD and do it during nap time! Where there is a will there is a way!

Hiking

Hiking is another exercise that I have found that alleviates my anxiety and depression. However, it is one of those exercises that I cannot do as often as I like because I am a mom. Things tend to get in my way, not to mention the insane heat in Florida.

Being outside in nature is more beneficial that taking a walk in any city. This study from the journal Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine show how people who take a walk in nature are found to have lower stress hormones then those who take walks in cities.

Take into consideration your environment and your exercise ability before you go on any long hikes.  Please do not attempt expert trails when you are only starting out. Trust me, I went on a hike in Colorado when visiting my family. I had a 4-month-old in a baby carrier that we had to pass around. We went up a couple thousand feet and 4 miles. At the end, we were climbing boulders and crossing tiny snow-covered trails as you can see in my picture below. It took us all day to go up and back. My entire body was sore, and I felt like I was going to die. So please, take it slow.

Dancing

Zumba, Salsa, or just blaring the music and letting loose are all going to get your body moving. Who cares if anybody sees. Let it go! Dancing will help your stress literally flow right out of you. My mother in law would swear by her Zumba classes. 45 minutes of intense dancing will make you sweat.

Unfortunately for me, dancing was not my thing and I do have to warn you, you may feel a little bit ridiculous in your first couple of Zumba classes. However, you will learn the dances and soon you will be rocking! Not to mention losing some weight and learning to express yourself. It has its perks.

The best dancing I do, is in my own home and usually blaring the Disney channel on my Pandora account. I love to dance with my children. Their faces light up and they laugh when we go crazy today! Who wouldn’t love that! So, if you can’t get out to a dancing class, find some music and go wild with your little ones. It will help you build a bond with them and teach them ways to deal with their stress. Who doesn’t love a little dance party with the ones you love!

Strength Training

Regular strength training can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. With two of my brothers and my husband as personal trainers, I have done a lot of strength training exercises. I’m not a body builder and I didn’t get the huge manly muscles. But, I did tone down! I finally got a flat stomach again after 2 kids! With boosting your self-esteem, strength training also helps reduce stress, and regulate sleep! What is not to love!

Don’t worry ladies, intense lifting is not going to make you manly. Even if you tried to bulk up, you would have to take major supplement to get the manly muscles. In fact, you are more likely to thin out as you build up. The number on the scale will go up. This is because muscle weight more then fat. But muscle actually burns more fat! So, you will tone down and look better then if you had just lost the weight. But you will have to break the mental addiction to lowering that number on the scale. I weigh more then I ever have (when I am not pregnant) and yet I look better than I ever have.

Try this out. It is an easy work out that can go as slow as you want. Start with lower weights so you don’t hurt yourself and do not go without learning some of the proper ways to lift. If you attempt a dead-lift or squat without knowing the proper form, you can hurt yourself. Be careful.

Do not give up. Find the right fit for you. These exercises can help you in more ways then one. If these do not work for you then find one that does. Skiing, racquetball, basketball, or any other way to get you out and moving! There are so many benefits from exercise, mental health is only one of them. If you need more proof take a look at the information at Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

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