Most people associate exercise with physical health — but what is good for the body is good for the mind. Regular workouts can help improve your mood, sharpen your mind, and help you feel healthier and happier overall.
Being physically active is an easy, natural way to help improve mental health — from easing symptoms of depression and anxiety to managing stress, sleeping better, and more. In fact, people who exercise have 43% fewer poor mental health days than people who do not. And many people see immediate improvements in their mood after a workout.
Even better? There are simple things you can do to maximize these mind-body benefits.
Run or Walk Mindfully
Next time you are walking or running, try adding mindfulness into the mix. All you need to do is focus your mind on your physical movement and the present moment. Instead of listening to music, tune into the sound of your feet hitting the ground, or the rhythm of your breathing. And when your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath and body. One study showed that participating in both mindfulness meditation and exercise reduced symptoms of depression by 40% in just eight weeks.
Take it Outside
When you are feeling stressed or dwelling on negative thoughts, head for the hills. Levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, drop by more than 20% after people spend 20 to 30 minutes in nature. Research also shows that walking in nature can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety — and cultivate peace of mind.
Note: Whether you are out for a quick walk or a long jog, remember to practice physical distancing and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on wearing cloth face coverings outdoors.
Focus on Your Breath
Yoga stretches the body and strengthens the core. It also places tremendous focus on deep, conscious breathing, which can help tame stress and calm the mind. Many people find that yoga helps them feel more peaceful and positive, and it is proven to improve sleep quality and relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even better? Most people feel better immediately following a yoga session — and with regular practice, the mind-body benefits actually increase over time.
Now that you know how moving your body can benefit your mind, you have even more reasons to make exercise part of your healthy routine. For more mood-boosting ideas you can try right now, check out our emotional wellness tools.