The benefits of exercise on our physical well-being have always been known, however, the mindful benefits are only just being made clear. Findings suggest that the term ‘runner’s high’ is not to be isolated just to running. Studies in various forms of regular aerobic exercise have been found to reduce anxiety and depression whilst improving overall mental well-being. A racing heart, sweaty temples and heavy breathing are just some of the side effects of a good workout and embarking on a regular aerobic routine will help you become less reactive to everyday stress and anxiety.

Therefore, could research be suggesting that getting a sweat on could prevent and potentially cure anxiety and depression? Studies have found that by simply incorporating a 15-minute run or an hour-long walk into your day could lower your chances of developing depression by 26%, meaning a prescription of antidepressants could potentially become a thing of the past.  

Many of the emotions associated with depression and anxiety and linked to low levels of self-esteem. When committing to a 12-week period of challenging yourself to exercise more, you are likely to see a great improvement in your mental health. Similarly, to low levels of self-esteem, feelings of loneliness and a lack of sense of belonging can have an effect on your mental well-being. In a world where we are virtually connected by social media, there can be a constant feeling of pressure and comparison. This can lead to negative emotions being evoked resulting in poor mental stability. Is being more virtually connected, actually making us less physically connected with each other and our emotions? Joining a gym or signing up to a class can provide new socialising opportunities whilst also offering a sense of belonging.

It isn’t just cardio that can improve your mental health. Although most studies are conducted on the use of aerobic exercise, there is also positive evidence for resistance and other forms of training also playing their part in metal well-being. Yoga, for example, teaches you how to control your breath with your movement prompting a state relaxation within the body. With relaxation comes reduced stress, fear and anxiety, giving you even more reasons to go and try that new yoga studio! 

Restorative sleep (or lack of it)  is also what comes to mind when thinking of poor mental health. Exercise is heavily linked to good quality, restful sleep because not only does it reduce stress but it also depletes our energy tank, which is a good thing! Exercise tends to boost your energy immediately afterwards but it can really help you sleep when it comes to the end of the day. You’ve got to move your body in order to feel sleepy… sitting at your desk all day and riding the bus home isn’t going to deplete your fuel tank at all! So next time you find yourself unsuccessfully drifting off to the lad of nod, why not book in an early morning yoga class or lace-up for a lunchtime run to help get those endorphins flowing! 

What is the best workout for you?

Anxiety – Try Yoga
Taking up yoga can offer a great opportunity to minimise your anxiety. There are so many classes to choose from, you could try a more restorative class if you’re feeling particularly anxious or book on to a Vinyasa Flow to get oxygen flowing around your body. Either way, you’re guaranteed to feel 100 times better after. 

Depression – Try Running
There is a reason it’s called a ‘runners high’. Being outdoors in the fresh air has been found to be particularly powerful with those suffering from depression. Looks like it is time to treat yourself to a new pair of trainers!

Stress – Try Boxing
There really isn’t a better way to release pent up energy and stress than taking it out on a punching bag! Putting on those boxing gloves and working up a sweat could be just what you need to clear your mind.

Increased self-confidence – Try Barre
Focusing on improving posture, flexibility and strength, this fun ballet-inspired training offers a great base to building self-confidence.

For happiness and mental clarity – Try spinning or cycling
Whether it be in the great outdoors or in an intense spinning studio, hopping onto a bike could make everything seem a whole lot clearer. Releasing those happy hormones, an early morning spin will offer a satisfying post-workout buzz that will set you up perfectly for your day ahead.

Read more: How To Break Free From Your Fitness Plateau