Exercise and Stretching for Mental Health

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Mental health is just as important as our physical health. In fact, the two are more closely linked than one might think. Instead of trying to fight against, and control, our mind, we can take a holistic approach and find a way to get our brain and body to work harmoniously together, while fighting against the stigma of mental health. We can train ourselves to shift our focus from the management of mental illness toward one that creates healthy habits that will increase our overall well-being.

I wanted to share some of the quickest and most beneficial habits I have learned to fight depression, sadness, stress and anxiety. As a runner, I have learned from an early age that I can fight depression, sadness and overall unease with a quick 30 minute run. In fact, just 30 minutes of exercise a day has proven to increase overall well-being in people who make it a habit. As quickly as 5 minutes into physical activity, individuals can notice an enhancement in their mood and can help alleviate mild to moderate long-term depression. Exercise can reduce stress, increase relaxation, reduce anxiety, boost energy, decrease blood pressure, strengthen muscles, enhance immunity, reduce weight gain and help you get a more restful sleep, among countless other benefits. How many anti-depressants can you say have the same benefits? I'm not saying that medication isn't needed in some cases of severe depression, but exercise has personally helped me in more ways than I can count. Running is just one of the forms of exercise I use to boost my mood and fight depression. Yoga is also very important to create balance and help reap the full benefits of running and other cardio routines. In fact, I admit that I don't stretch as much as I should, but when I do, I feel so much better! Stretching out those muscles after a run can improve range of motion, decrease back pain, prevent injury, decrease soreness, and even improve our posture. Mixing up our exercise routine can help us create balance and harmony, while keeping things interesting. Try a combination of aerobic exercise, strength building, and flexibility exercises and see how your body and mind respond. How has exercise helped you with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety and stress? Share your story in the comments below!

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