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Exercise Your Way To Better Mental Health

Aug 20, 2018

Scott Douglas’s Running Is My Therapy shows how cardio can be an effective treatment in managing anxiety and depression.

Pick a good time to work out

Douglas recommends at least 2 moderately paced runs (or similar cardio workouts) for at least thirty minutes each week. The best time for these workouts is when you’re most likely to do them. For this reason, many people plan to work out in the morning, so that the day doesn’t get away from them. But maybe you’re someone who thinks working out in the evening is a nice way to de-stress from the day. Either way, pick a time when you know you’ll be most apt to go.

Go outside

While it can be easy to head to your gym or basement and jump on a treadmill, if you have the opportunity to exercise outside, take it! Studies show that green spaces like parks and forests have a more beneficial impact and will put you in a better mood. Another benefit: if you’re running or biking outside, you also have to be more aware of your terrain for any obstacles, which will give your brain an added workout.

Put on some tunes

Research has found that listening to music while working out at a low to moderate intensity can reduce perceived effort. This means that if you’re feeling sluggish or down, turning up some Kesha may motivate you to either head out in the first place, or finish that extra mile if you’re already running/swimming/biking.

Grab a friend

Exercising with another person will provide a social connection that will likely boost your mood. Since your body is engaged, your mind may also feel freed up to talk about deeper subjects that you may feel inhibited to explore normally. This is especially true when you engage in side-by-side exercises, such as running, biking, or rollerblading. The lack of eye contact can also lead to a feeling of greater openness and comfort. (In fact, certain therapists are now starting to invite clients out for walks and runs for this very reason!)

Set goals

People who are depressed often feel that their days stretch on interminably; they have nothing to look forward to. Setting trackable, challenging goals can help people measure their process of improvement and feel a sense of accomplishment in that change. Setting goals can also help give structure and purpose on a day-to-day basis; for those who feel down or scattered, this can be a powerful remedy.

Mix it up

Whether you’re practicing one type of exercise or more, aim to vary your sessions by length, intensity, and setting. Keeping things different and interesting will make you more likely to keep exercising. For those who feel that they’re stuck in some aspect of their lives, the variation is also a good reminder that life will eventually and undoubtedly change.