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Exercise for a healthy mind

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Modern life is stressful; you probably didn’t need reminding of that, but it’s entirely true.

Everything has become very fast paced and “immediate”, there’s almost nowhere to turn anymore in order to escape from, well...everything. In fact, effective escapism has become an important and often forgotten art amongst the mammoth number of activities we undertake daily.

It’s no surprise really that stress and depression are on the rise as a result of this hectic landscape we occupy. More and more people are succumbing to the endless pressures placed on them, whether its financial, relationship or career based; many people are simply finding it difficult to cope.

Luckily, certain forms of physical exercise are an amazing, drug free remedy to both of these potential inhibitions amongst a vast sea of other mental and physical ailments.

Something’s got to give

Whilst the reasons for stress and depression occurring are often entirely valid, what’s important to recognise is that you are stressed or depressed in the first place. You should never shy away from your feelings, as they will ultimately lead you towards ridding yourself of or greatly alleviating the problem at hand.

Once you have isolated that you’re not feeling exactly how the normal you should; it’s then time to take action.

What can I do to help?

Whilst it’s true that any form of exercise is effective for the mind and body (provided there are no physical restrictions in place that could be made worse by your chosen type of exercise), there are several forms in particular that will be of immense benefit for both the mind and body.

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Meditation

Meditation doesn’t have to include simply sitting down and humming; this stereotypical image of what meditation is has lead to widespread misinterpretation of exactly what it means to meditate. Technically, anything that allows you to cut yourself off from your surroundings and relax the mind and body could be classed as meditation. This includes traditional exercise formats like yoga and pilates, however, you can choose to seclude yourself from the world around you and simply sit, emptying the mind and allowing every muscle in the body to relax. This too counts as meditation.

Picture it more as a state of mind as opposed to a full blown physical exercise; the beauty of meditation is that it stimulates the prefrontal cortex of the brain (this area helps to control concentration and focus) and helps give you the ability to be more present and forget negative experiences. It also helps you to logically work your way through problems.

Need some help? Our very good friends at Headspace can guide you with their mindfulness app...give it a go! Click here and get 10 days free.

Running

One of the best forms of aerobic exercise, running allows you to completely cut off from your surroundings and get yourself outside in nature whilst reaping the many, many health benefits of a fully functional respiratory and cardiovascular system.

There’s almost no aspect of your health that steady state cardiovascular exercise like this can’t positively affect; the beauty of running being that you aren’t forced into performing it within the constraints of a building. You choose the scenery and the course, and you’re then free as a bird to tackle it is as fast or as slow a time as you like.

You’ll help reduce the risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease and rid the body of harmful toxins responsible for causing all manner of other internal problems. Endorphins will also be released in abundance, making you feel fantastic in the process.

Running (and any other aerobic exercise) is particularly good at generating new brain cells in the hippo-campus section of the brain. This section is responsible for learning and memory.

Resistance training

Resistance training carries with it some of the positive aspects of both of the previously mentioned training types; although in not quite as acutely refined a form as either activity can provide. It’s a happy medium, but it comes with its own unique benefits too.

What’s great about resistance training is that it can drastically improve your appearance, whilst also being good for your health and skeletal structure when performed safely and effectively.

An improved external appearance will drastically improve confidence, which in turn is going to help alleviate anxiety, stress and depression symptoms and could well turn out to be the exercise of choice for you.

Group exercise

Team exercise can come in many different forms; be it a sport or simply a bootcamp / circuit session at your local fitness centre.

Benefits of group exercise include a well rounded combination of all of the above elements, albeit with the addition of human companionship and mutual support; both of which can greatly help boost your mental well being.

In conjunction with the huge surge of endorphins many group exercise sessions will deliver, this really is one of the best choices out there for escaping from the stresses and strains of a busy personal life or work day and putting your hand to something positively charged and personally rewarding.

Martial arts

In many ways, applying yourself to a martial art is a great way of covering all of the above areas at once.

You’ll learn mental discipline, how to cut off from your surroundings, how to effectively exercise and techniques that will fill you with self confidence in everyday life. Whether it’s judo, karate or jiu jitsu; the harmonious integration of the mind and body needed to apply yourself to the physical tasks you’ll be faced with when following any martial art will give you a very well balanced mind set.

Don’t be afraid to make an inquiry at any of your local martial arts clubs; that initial inquiry has lead to many a changed life for millions of people and newcomers will always be accommodated for if the club is of a high caliber.

Is there a best type for me?

Usually yes! The “best” exercise format to put your mind at ease is often the one that appeals to your personal preferences and interests. For instance, if you’ve always been curious about bodybuilding, then there’d be little point in trying to hit the running track for your first exercise session as you’d likely get put off.

What’s always a great idea to do is combining different exercise types; especially when it comes to meditative exercise formats like yoga in conjunction with the more physically demanding ones like running as the combination of the two will target every area of the brain, thus giving you great all round “protection” against future and current mental strains.

Don’t be afraid to take the first step and make a positive change today; it could make a world of difference tomorrow.

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