We all know it is good to move our bodies, for both fitness and mental health. Whilst the effects on keeping active are often evident on our physical bodies- weight loss, toning, reduced blood pressure, a reduction in symptoms such as asthma, etc. Less evident is the effect exercise has on our mental health. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) exercise ‘improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function’.[1] It also helps to ‘alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal’. [2]

It is clear then, that exercise is an important part of our daily routine to keep our mind alert and happy. But if you aren’t a fan of the gym or pounding the pavement, it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, we are here to offer some great alternatives that will utilize the great outdoors and have a positive impact on your mental health. So pick up your workout bag and let’s get moving!

Walking/Hiking

There is a common myth that in order for exercise to be effective (especially when related to fat burn and weight loss) it has to be high-intensity, high impact, cardio. Whilst it is true there are many benefits to cardio workouts, don’t let that put you off if you are just getting started on a new exercise routine- walking is a great alternative. Yes really! Recent research has found that starting off slow and building your walking routine is a gentle, low-impact exercise great at encouraging positive thoughts, improving alertness and aiding your mental health. It is also a great option for those with health conditions, recovering from injury or the older generation. Top tip? Fitness trackers like ‘Fitbit’ or the ‘Apple Watch’ are great at tracking just how much you move, setting targets and analyzing progress. You can even get your friends or family involved by creating a ‘walking team’ to meet your fitness targets!

Swimming

Like walking, swimming is another low-intensity workout that is especially great for those with injuries- your body is weightless in water. For those lacking confidence, many leisure centers offer swimming lessons to perfect your technique and include fitness ‘slow lanes’ to use whilst you build your fitness. Like walking, just 10 minutes of swimming a day has been proven to have a positive effect on one’s mental health and is a great way to exercise the entire body.[3]

Dance

Dance is another option for those who prefer an alternative workout to sweating it out in the gym. Like swimming, this aerobic exercise is proven to help symptoms of anxiety and depression. Since one usually dances to music, and music is a way to improve mood and get more out of a workout, dance is a great way to let loose and shake of stress. With so many variations to choose from: everything from samba, to tap, its a way of combining a new skill whilst exercising. One form of dance that is particularly popular at the moment is barre- a ballet style workout designed to improve posture and provide a sense of release.

Yoga

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Yoga is still considered one of the front runners when it comes to the link between exercise and mental health. Why? It’s gentle on the body, reduces stress, works on your breath and connects both mind & body. There is a different type of yoga for everyone- from Hatha to Ashtanga, so why not explore these options depending on whether you want an intense or therapeutic workout. Yoga also combines well with meditation, or you could try pilates for a more aerobic element. Pilates focuses on relaxing and strengthening the muscles, compared to the flexibility element of yoga.

Our Choices Personalized Retreats Program focuses in making time for our clients to explore exercises such as yoga and meditation that have a proven positive effect on mental health. We also work with a fully certified Yoga Teacher and Reiki practitioner who has a background in Coaching, Meditation and Mindfulness practice.

To find out more, visit our website here: https://www.choicesretreats.com/about-us-2/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/

[3] https://www.swimming.org/justswim/8-benefits-of-swimming/

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