Exercise is not only about increasing your biceps size and having six-pack abs. It is also about boosting your mental health, giving you a more positive feeling about yourself and your experiences.
Various studies show that regular exercise is an effective treatment for mild to moderate cases of depression. In one study, test participants who ran for about 15 minutes a day or walked for an hour a day displayed a 26% reduced risk of major depression. In another study, test subjects who exercised on a regular basis showed not only reduced symptoms of depression but also a lower risk of relapsing.
Exercise has also been found to support brain function. It promotes neural growth and development, and positive feelings like calmness and high energy. It also facilitates the release of endorphins, which are potent chemicals found in the brain that are often dubbed as “happiness hormones” because of their feel-good effect.
Do you want to start exercising to avail of its positive effects on your mental health? Where should you start? What are good beginner-friendly exercise routines that you can try?
Walking is a good exercise that people of all fitness levels, size, weight, and age can try. It does not cost anything, and can easily be fitted into your day-to-day routine. With just a good quality pair of sneakers or walking shoes, you can begin your daily walking schedule, and enjoy the following benefits in no time:
Burn extra calories
If you want to lose weight or maintain your weight, you have to make sure that you do not consume more calories than you should. But, if you have bad days and go over your calorie target, you can burn those excess calories off by walking. You can burn more calories if you walk faster, farther, and uphill or some rough or rugged terrain.
Improve your heart health
Studies show that walking for about 2.5 hours a week can help strengthen your heart. If you can commit to setting aside 30 minutes of your time per day, five days a week to walking, you can enjoy a 19% reduced risk of coronary heart disease. And, if you can increase your walking duration or distance per day, you can reduce your risk even more.
Protect your joints
Walking regularly is good for the muscles that support your joints. In one study, it was found that people with arthritis experienced relief from the symptoms by walking a total of about five miles a week.
Yoga is an exercise consisting of various physical poses, breathing techniques, and relaxation and meditation practices. It has several forms, intensities, and styles, offering a wide array of health benefits, including:
Improve your physical fitness and performance
Getting into yoga can help strengthen the different muscle groups of your body, and enhance your endurance, stamina, and flexibility, lowering your risk of injuries.
Reduce your stress levels
Many research studies have found that yoga can help lower your stress levels. It can also provide relief for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, and improve your focus, mood, and sense of wellbeing.
Lower your risk of diseases
Yoga can play a key role in your body’s ability to protect you against high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, heart disease, and other health problems. It can also decrease your odds of having anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other chronic conditions.
Examples of easy yoga pose for beginners are:
Downward facing dog
This is a common pose taught in yoga classes. It is a stretching exercise that works your whole body. To do it, get down on all fours, with your arms and wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Then, slowly lift your hips up, making your body form an inverted V shape. Make sure that your arms, legs, and back are straightened out. Stay in that position for about 10 to 15 seconds, and then go back to starting to position. Repeat.
This is another stretching routine that works the sides of your waist and strengthens your lungs and legs. To do it, start by standing up with your feet about one leg’s length apart. Raise your arms out to your sides about shoulder-level. Turn your right foot about 90 degrees out, and your left foot about 45 degrees in. Work your abdominal muscles and quadriceps as you bend your body towards your right side. Place your right hand on your knee and raise your left arm towards the ceiling. Turn your head and look at your raised left hand. Hold that position for about 10 to 15 seconds. Go back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Weight training is great for toning your biceps, triceps, and other muscles, including your mental muscles.
In one study, the test group that engaged in low-intensity weight-training sessions three to five times per week in a span of 30 days showed higher scores in cognitive tests than the control group who did not do any weight training. The weight-training group performed better in planning, multitasking, and behavioral exercises. In another study, test subjects who did resistance training showed a significant decrease in their depressive symptoms, especially those with mild to moderate depression.
Other benefits of weight-training are a self-esteem boost, which is believed to be the result of developing better body image as they see the results of their hard work; enhanced cognitive function, improving attention, concentration, decision-making, and memory; and an increase in your overall wellbeing, as your mind is focused solely on your weight-training routine and is momentarily detached from the realities of life while you workout.
Below are examples of weight-training exercises for beginners:
This is a full-body exercise that targets your quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, abdominal muscles, shoulders, and triceps.
This primarily works your biceps and strengthens your arms.
This is a top-notch lower body exercise that targets your back, hamstrings, quads, and glutes.