From supporting weight loss and boosting metabolism to reducing the risk of chronic illness, exercise has been long celebrated for its physical benefits. But, let’s not forget about the profound impact that movement can have on mental health! While research has shown that simply engaging in physical activity can have significant benefits for mental health, there are easy ways to optimize your workout routine to improve your mental health even further. All it takes is a little know-how!
Ahead, specific strategies to incorporate into your workout routine that can help optimize your mental well-being. Here’s how to enhance your exercise routine for mental health!
The Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health
But first, the benefits of movement for mental health! According to research, exercise can help:
- Improve mood
- Cultivate connection, support, and belonging
- Increase resilience to stress
- Enhance sleep quality
- Boost self-esteem and body image
- Improve neuroplasticity and cognitive health
- Support mental well-being
7 Movement Hacks to Help Boost Your Mental Health
Find Movement that Brings You Joy
Let’s face it — if you’re working out to solely burn calories or achieve a quick-fix solution, you’re not going to achieve the same mental health benefits. In fact, exercise could become more of a chore rather than a feel-good activity. So, rather than solely focusing on burning or restricting calories, prioritize activities that bring you joy and make you feel good. Engaging in exercises that you genuinely enjoy has been shown to increase motivation, reduce stress, and boost overall happiness.
Whether it’s dancing, hiking, swimming, or practicing yoga, finding activities that resonate with you will enhance your mental well-being while exercising. And remember, this looks different for everyone!
Take Your Workout Outdoors
Feeling stuck? Sad? Anxious? Take advantage of the benefits of exercising outdoors! Exercising in nature has been shown to positively impact mental health, helping to improve mood and mindset. From soaking in the sunshine to breathing in the fresh air, taking your workout outdoors can do so much for the mind (and body)!
The best part? There are so many ways to incorporate outdoor workouts. Lace-up your sneakers for a neighborhood stroll, take a scenic jog in the park, hit a local hiking trail, practice yoga on the beach, or press play on a FitOn workout and sweat it out in your own backyard! You’ll get a refreshing change of scenery, increase vitamin D intake, and invigorate your mind.
RELATED: The Surprising Mental Health Benefits of Bringing Your Workouts Outdoors
Make it a Social Affair
While there are many benefits to exercising alone, engaging in movement with others could help benefit your mental health! In fact, studies have shown that social connection is crucial for overall health, not just mental health. It can help alleviate feelings of loneliness, foster a sense of belonging and support, and offer a valuable support system! Consider sweating it out with a friend or exercising in a community setting. This could be joining a gym, signing up for a group fitness class, going for a walk or jog with a friend, or even finding ways to exercise with your co-workers at work!
Practice Mindful Movement
While there’s no right or wrong way to practice mindful movement, bringing your attention to the present moment is a great place to begin! Start by paying attention to your body, your breath, and any sensations you’re feeling. Notice the physical sensations in your body as you move, such as the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, the stretch in your muscles during a yoga pose, or the contraction of your muscles during a squat or lunge. You can also focus on your breath, observing the rhythm, depth, and quality.
And even if you’re feeling fatigued or struggling to make it through those last few reps, try to come from a place of non-judgment. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge and thank your body for its strength, endurance, and ability to move! This can help enhance the mind-body connection and promote a greater sense of acceptance, self-love, and compassion. Not to mention, enhance your mood and mindset.
Head to the FitOn app and explore exercises that emphasize the mind-body connection, such as yoga or Pilates! You could even dance it out or simply get started with a stretching exercise.
RELATED: Combining Mindfulness With Exercise: What You Need to Know
Set Realistic Goals
Achieving the feel-good benefits of movement doesn’t mean hitting the gym for 60 minutes per day. In fact, it’s better to start small and make it sustainable! Set achievable and realistic goals that align with your abilities and interests. Having clear objectives (that are actually attainable) can enhance motivation, boost self-confidence, and provide a sense of accomplishment.
Need help getting started? Here’s how to set fitness goals that actually stick!
Use Movement to Manage Stress
When it comes to busting stress, think of movement as medicine! In fact, try to use physical activity as a tool for managing stress. When you feel overwhelmed or anxious, try engaging in exercise. Whether it’s taking a five-minute stroll or rolling out your mat for a calming FitOn yoga session, movement can provide a healthy outlet for releasing tension, reducing cortisol, and clearing your mind.
RELATED: The Best Kinds of Exercise For Mental Health, According to Research
While it can sometimes be easier said than done, try to cultivate a sense of gratitude during or after your workouts. This can be particularly effective on those days when you don’t feel like moving or are feeling extra down. If you’re in a rut, try to reflect on something positive and practice gratitude. Think about the benefits you experience during and after exercise, or give thanks for your physical abilities and the opportunity to move. This can help shift your focus towards a more positive mindset and enhance your overall mood and mindset!
RELATED: The Surprising Ways Positivity Improves Your Health
Maximizing the Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
As you can see, the mere act of movement can have a profound impact on your mental well-being. From reducing stress, improving mood, increasing self-esteem, and enhancing cognitive function, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can do so much good for your mind and body. And while any movement will likely benefit you in some capacity, optimizing your workout routine with these simple strategies can enhance the benefits even further! And remember, this is your journey. To make it sustainable and enjoyable, find what feels best for you and your lifestyle.