Boost Your Mental Health with Physical Activity
Discover science-backed ways to become more active and improve your mental health during the winter season.
Put one foot in front of the other
During the winter season, it's common to feel down and lack motivation. However, something as simple as walking can help you overcome the seasonal blues. Walking is an accessible and beneficial aerobic exercise that can improve your mental health. Whether you walk outdoors or on a treadmill, the act of putting one foot in front of the other can have a positive impact on your body and mind.
If the weather is unfavorable, consider walking indoors at a local mall. Any amount of walking will help, so don't worry about the duration or frequency in the beginning. According to the World Health Organization, 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week provides maximum physical and mental health benefits. Start by taking that first step and know that you're on the right track.
Have fun in your free time
Exercise doesn't have to be limited to the gym. Think about the activities you enjoy in your free time that can also serve as exercise. Any activity that gets you standing and moving counts as physical activity. Whether it's bowling, dancing, or axe throwing, make a weekly commitment to engage in these activities. Research shows that just one hour of leisure-time exercise per week, regardless of intensity, can reduce the risk of future depression.
If you don't have any active hobbies, consider trying something new. Sign up for a dance class or recreational fitness class. You can easily find local classes and groups online through platforms like Facebook and Meetup. Additionally, if you're a parent or grandparent, get involved in playtime with the kids. Joining in on the fun can bring joy and physical activity into your life.
Lift weights to lift your mood
Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight training, has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Various studies have demonstrated the positive effects of strength training on mental health. A 2018 study published in JAMA Psychiatry analyzed over 1,800 participants and found that strength training led to significant reductions in depressive symptoms, regardless of health status or the volume of exercise.
If you're new to strength training, start with the appropriate weight and take it slow. You can try a workout routine that focuses on different exercises using just one dumbbell. This allows you to target multiple muscle groups and experience the mood-boosting benefits of strength training.
Move your body on your yoga mat
Rolling out your yoga mat during the winter can be a great way to improve your mood. Yoga has long been associated with mood-boosting properties, and research supports its potential in easing depression. A randomized controlled clinical trial conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that adults with moderate-to-severe depression experienced significant reductions in depressive symptoms after participating in heated yoga sessions.
You can easily find yoga classes at gyms, studios, and community centers. If attending classes isn't feasible, there are plenty of online resources that provide simple yoga routines you can practice at home. Regardless of the form of exercise you choose, adding a little more physical activity to your life can have noticeable mood-boosting benefits and help combat the seasonal slump.