Whenever I am feeling down, I drag my sorry ass over to the closest gym and get to work. The energy gained from those exercises is enough to keep me going through the rest of the day and lift my spirit. Even though exercise takes quite some time , it raises my concentration and increases my productivity. There has been a lot of research about the connection between exercise and mental health. Exercise might function as a stressor on its own, but practicing at a moderate pace reduces harmful effects of other stressors like deadlines, relationship struggles and other unforeseen situations.1 I hear you thinking: “So I should go to the gym as well? I hate it there!” No, of course not. Exercise can be viewed in a very broad sense. Therefore, I have listed some inspiration for you below:
- Walking is exercising too!
Erik Scherder designed a tool called ‘Ommetje’ (meaning something like ‘a walk around the block’) to encourage people to start walking more often.2 According to Scherder and the app, walking only 20 minutes a day is already enough to gain some mental benefits. For example, 20 minutes of walking already enhances your overall energy levels and productivity. Walking is especially beneficial when done early on in the morning. However, a walk before going to bed could also promote relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Every sport has its own benefits
Don’t like fitness or running? Every sport counts as exercise and has its own benefits. Fitness increases strength, swimming relieves pressure of your joints while exercising and yoga makes you more flexible. More of a team player? Find a sports community which fits with your needs. Having someone to exercise with can increase your motivation and reduce the feeling of ‘exercising as a burden’. Think of exercise involving elements of play like football, volleyball, basketball, etc. I myself like to be involved in sports where you can do your own thing, but within a tight community. Think of dancing, pole fitness, bouldering or survival training.
- Practice at home
Thanks to the internet there is a lot of sports-related content online. Think of quick work-outs at home or ingenious stretch routines. You don’t even need equipment in most cases. One of my favorite Youtube channels is Yoga With Adriene. Her channel contains lots of different yoga practices for a variety of different levels. And yes, this counts as exercise too. Another upcoming trend is calisthenics. Calisthenics are a mix of acrobatics and bodyweight exercises. With calisthenics you increase your strength, but also flexibility and body control. You can try to learn a handstand or master other arm balances.
Whatever you prefer, be sure to be mindful when it comes to moving. Don’t test yourself beyond your limits, but do get yourself out of that chair from time to time. Physical and mental health are more closely related than you think. Or as good old Socrates once said: “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”
- Andréa Deslandes et al., “Exercise and Mental Health: Many Reasons to Move,” Neuropsychobiology 59, no. 4 (June 10, 2009): pp. 191-198, https://doi.org/10.1159/000223730.
2. Have a look at the app yourself: Ommetje – Dé Nr. 1 Wandel-app: Maak van wandelen een gewoonte – Hersenstichting