For many of us, change is hard. It can be stressful transitioning to new things, and the transition from summer to fall is no exception. Getting some exercise is a great way to help alleviate some of that stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, “regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.” It can also help get your mind off your worries and help you learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way. (1)
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top exercises for your mental (and physical) health. We recommend starting off slow, finding something you enjoy, and setting realistic goals. Once you discover something that you like doing, moving your body will come easily.
Here are the top 5 exercises we recommend:
Walking. That’s right. It’s easy and accessible, and almost everyone can do it. Whether it’s a quick ten-minute walk around the block or a leisurely stroll through the park, any walking is a great way to start moving your body. “Research has found that low-intensity aerobic activity is the best form of exercise for encouraging positive thoughts and improving alertness, so starting off slow and building up pace and distance as you go could have a big payoff in terms of making mental health strides.” (2)
Yoga. Yoga combines stretching and other exercises with deep breathing and meditation, which can improve overall physical fitness, strength, flexibility, and lung capacity while reducing your heart rate and blood pressure. With a variety of classes ranging from restorative to strengthening, there’s something for everyone. Yoga is also a great way to meet like-minded people and it helps many people form a sense of community and belonging which is important for your mental wellbeing.
Team Sports. Team sports like basketball, soccer, baseball, and volleyball are a fun way to get out and meet new people while getting a great workout. People who join teams usually find that they look forward to the commitment instead of dreading their workout!
Aerobic or Gym Exercise. Exercises like jumping rope, rowing, or weightlifting are great ways to get your heart pumping and your body moving. A Lancet Psychiatry study found that aerobic or gym exercise helped promote good mental health by releasing endorphins. It also helped boost confidence and self-image in many people. (3)
Swimming. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that’s great for people who normally suffer pain while working out. Many people can exercise longer in water without damage to their joints or muscles like they would have on land. It’s a great way to relieve arthritis and fibromyalgia and helps maintain bone health. According to the CDC, swimmers have about half the risk of death compared with inactive people as it significantly decreases the risk of chronic illness. (4)
While it may be hard getting started, the most important thing to remember when exercising is to be consistent. Once you get into the routine of moving, you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel, both mentally and physically, making it more likely that you’ll continue.
So, what are you waiting for? Check out your local Meetup groups to find people with common interests or goals, join a dance class, or ask a friend to join you on an after-dinner walk. Whatever you love, go out and get started today!