Stressed out? Feeling blue? It’s tempting to look for a quick fix—jumping online for a little retail therapy, reaching for a pint of Häagen-Dazs… We’ve all been there, done that. But before you grab your credit card or open that freezer door, consider an alternative that won’t cost you cash or calories: working out.
Research shows that when you get moving, your mind benefits just as much as your body. “Individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger,” says Gregory Chertok, Director of the Sport and Exercise Psychology Program at the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Englewood, NJ.
Working out will also help boost your self-esteem, improve your memory and sharpen your concentration. You’ll reap mind-body benefits no matter what type of workout you choose. “Cardio exercise, weight training and specialized workouts like yoga or Pilates all help to establish positive behaviors, and provide a sense of accomplishment,” says Chertok.
Read on to find out exactly how different types of exercise can help your mental health, and discover easy ways to get started.
If work is stressing you out, yoga can help. “Yoga helps to quiet the mind,” explains Judi Bar, lead yoga therapist at the Cleveland Clinic. “When you’re focused on a pose, you’re not thinking about your day’s work.”
Practicing yoga also helps you gain confidence and composure, so you don’t feel as frazzled when stressful situations do pop up. The proof: A recent study done in the United Kingdom found that a group of university employees who attended one yoga class per week felt improved mood and well-being. What’s more, the yoga group felt more confident when faced with stressful situations.
Checking email while putting together a PowerPoint presentation while figuring out what the heck to have for dinner… multi-tasking is so common these days, we do it without thinking. Regular yoga classes can help you regain focus, so you’re better able to concentrate on the task at hand. In a study done at California State University, subjects reported increased levels of concentration after eight weeks of yoga classes. “Yoga brings your mind and body together—it promotes what we call mindfulness,” explains Bar.
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