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The benefits of gentle exercise for positive mental health by Nina Wells

In the United Kingdom, and around the world, mental health issues are a growing concern. Part of the problem is the country’s aging population, as older adults are more vulnerable to mental health disorders, but rates of anxiety and depression are rising among most of the UK’s demographics. According to statistics on mental health in the UK, these problems have been identified as one of the primary causes of many common diseases – and are so prevalent that an estimated 1 in 6 people in the UK have experienced a mental health concern at some point over the past week.

There are a number of ways to treat mental health issues, including pharmacological options, but it can be helpful to try some natural treatments before resorting to medical ones. Studies have shown that therapeutic exercise has produced positive results in many people who struggle with mental health issues – and this kind of therapy is easy for anyone to incorporate into their daily routine.

Yoga

The stress-reducing, meditative aspect of yoga makes this exercise a perfect way to reduce some of the anxiety and depression associated with mental health issues. With rhythmic, flowing movements, sustained poses, and steady breathing techniques, yoga can help tame the body’s natural stress response – and with regular practice, can even help you learn to respond to stress more flexibly.

Studies have even shown that yoga class participants with a wide range of mental health issues reported decreased levels of tension, depression, anger, anxiety, hostility, and even fatigue – after just one class.

Going for a walk

Not only is being outside one of the best things you can do for your mental health, aerobic exercise has proven anti-depressant effects – including a release of endorphins from your increased circulation and elevated heart rate. These feel-good hormones are your body’s natural pain killer, and when combined with the fresh air and cleansing experience of being outside, going for a walk could be just what you need to help fight the symptoms of disordered mental health.

High-intensity exercise

This kind of exercise is particularly good for your brain, boosting production of compounds that protect your nerves, increasing blood flow to your brain, and even improving the development and survival of neurons. To get your brain functioning efficiently, choose your favourite kind of cardio – running, using an elliptical, or biking – and incorporate a cycle where you push as hard as you can for 30 seconds, and follow it with 90 seconds of recovery at a more moderate pace. Repeat this cycle 7 times, ending your workout with a short cool-down.

High-intensity exercise is very convenient for people with busy schedules, as you can achieve these long-term benefits from a 20 minute workout, just a few times each week. Alternate days where you do your high-intensity exercises with days where you do some of the other therapeutic exercises, like yoga or swimming.

Swimming

Whether you go swimming indoors or outdoors, this soothing form of exercise can help calm your mind and reduce some of your body’s natural reactions to stress. Swimming relaxes your muscles and helps loosen your joints, and the rhythmic motions involved with pushing your body through the water are deeply therapeutic on their own.

This exercise is also great for people who struggle with mobility and other disabilities, making it ideal for older adults who might be dealing with anxiety and depression.

Exercising with others

Getting together with family members or friends to enjoy an active visit provides a fantastic outlet for dealing with stress and worries. The emotional support you’ll get from working out with a loved one is hugely beneficial for your mental health, and it’s also just a great way to improve your mood.

Team sports are another therapeutic activity that can inspire a healthier mental state. Working together to achieve a common goal and participating in a friendly competition can help give you a sense of purpose as the act of exercising inspires positive feelings of revitalisation.

Learning techniques to manage mental health concerns like anxiety and depression through natural treatments like therapeutic exercise can be a great tool for anyone struggling with these issues. Instead of suffering through the side effects associated with most medical options, use exercise therapy as a way to boost your mood and get your mental health back on track.

 

Thank you to Nina Wells who wrote this article. Nina is a guest author from Steam Shower Store and is a respected and expert voice in a plethora of health related subjects with over 10 years of writing under her belt.