Sporting Activities Which are Scientifically Proven to Improve Mental Health and Help Combat Stress

February 11, 2019 9:27 pm

Spending hours upon hours pounding away on a treadmill inside an air-conditioned gym is not everybody’s idea of fun and there are many people who spend their lives continuously making excuses, just to avoid having to jog alongside perspiring strangers. However, staying healthy is vitally important for both our waistlines and well-being, and there are a plethora of ways to keep fit without having to sign-up for a monthly membership.

Exercise is scientifically proven to have a positive effect on our mental health and it is also believed to be a handy way of combatting stress, depression and anxiety as well as potentially helping to give you a fresh outlook on life. Even relatively low-impact past-times can begin to lift the mood and improve your well-being and we take a look at a handful of sporting activities which can largely be enjoyed, without the need for a sweatband and towel. 

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Walking 

This may seem like an obvious place to start, however something as simple as going for a brisk walk has been found to significantly improve mental health. It has a whole range of benefits for people of all ages and you don’t have to be in peak condition in order to get started. It’s an activity which can take many different manifestations and whether it’s taking a quick stroll to the shops or embarking upon a ten-mile ramble through the British countryside, it will certainly help improve self-esteem, self-perception and often, improve your quality of sleep. 

Walking can be enjoyed in your own time and it is often easy to fit around a hectic schedule. A new study, which was conducted in January 2018 suggested that the benefits of going for a country stroll can last for up to seven hours and that taking time to listen to birdsong or simply stopping to gaze up at the sky can also have a profound effect on our mental state. 

Anyone who lives in urban areas can easily visit one of their town’s local parks whilst those who don’t have time to traverse to their nearest green space will be able to recreate this feeling by enjoying a spot of gardening or taking a moment to sit and observe the wildlife in their own backyard. 

It’s important to stress that walking isn’t necessarily a replacement for medication and therapy but it can certainly go some way to eliminating negative thoughts and it can significantly help lift spirits in the short-term. 

It may also act as a cognitive function and is viewed as a good way of reducing the risk of dementia in older people. It can also help sharpen the mind and it is an activity that often helps add a little perspective to any ongoing personal issues, worries or troubles. Cognitive skills are vitally important and everyday activities such as completing a crossword or playing bingo have been listed as effective ways to help keep the brain sharp and switched-on.

Swimming 

Swimming is a fairly low-impact sport which can usually be enjoyed for a relatively low-fee. You may not feel the benefits when you’re in the water but it is likely to take effect shortly after exiting the pool. It is also a full-body workout and although you may feel some aches and pains after your first time back at the leisure centre, it is essential to stick with it and not give up. 

For anyone who is feeling a little braver, open-water swimming has been proven to have an enormously positive effect on the brain. The cold water has been found to trigger psychological and hormonal responses and reactions and after just a couple of minutes of being submerged, the brain begins to de-stress and de-clutter. Repeated immersions soon begin to reshape a person’s outlook and it has also been known to reduce an inflammation which tends to be linked with stressful situations. 

At the time of writing, the majority of evidence remains anecdotal; however, the BBC did broadcast a program in 2018 featuring medical professionals who talked to open-water swimmers that have enjoyed significant improvements to their mental health as a result of braving the sub-zero temperatures. 

You don’t have to dive in the nearest river in mid-January to enjoy the health benefits of swimming and a quick dip at the local pool is likely to be sufficient enough to reduce anxiety, settle pre-exam nerves and improve general motivation. 

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HIIT

HIIT is a relatively new phenomenon and has been trail blazed by Joe Wicks in recent years. It generally consists of short bursts of exercise with rest periods in-between. The idea of HIIT is raise heart-rates as quickly as possible and it is an activity which can be completed anywhere. 

It is also designed to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and strengthen core muscles. Understandably, it isn’t for everyone but they do tend to vary in levels of severity and the beginners’ tutorials provide a low-impact entry point for all newcomers. HIIT classes are held at local leisure centres and they often take less than an hour to complete. Gym memberships can often be expensive, but luckily many establishments now offer a trial period or free guest passes which can often include entry to HIIT classes. These days, it’s easy to shop around online and find which fitness centres are offering this incentive and this try-before-you-buy policy isn’t just restricted to gyms. Many other industries also give potential customers a sample of their services including online streaming platforms such as Netflix and a large number of online bingo sites. Oddschecker have compiled a list of no-deposit bingo operators that are currently available online and these enable potential customers to get a feel for the game before signing up. 

For those who don’t fancy joining their local leisure centre on a trial basis, there is a litany of free videos widely available on Youtube. These allow followers to pause the session if they require an extra time-out or they find themselves unable to keep up with the pace. 

It has similar benefits to walking and swimming with the ability to significantly reduce stress levels and curtail anxiety. Just a 20-minute burst of HIIT can boost your mental health whilst also helping to sharpen the brain. It is relatively easy to squeeze in a quick pre-work session and is also ideal to round off the end of a long, stressful day at the office. 

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Yoga 

Yoga has become extremely popular over the last decade and it understandably comes highly-recommended by both psychologists and mental health specialists. Participants in medical studies have categorically confirmed a reduction in the symptoms of stress and anxiety after undertaking a yoga class and it has numerous positive effects on both the body and mind. 

As well as working on the core, yoga focuses heavily on breathing exercises and this can help relax the brain. It also relieves muscle tension and is believed to be good for the nervous system as well. Some researchers believe that it outperforms aerobic exercises when it comes to mental health and it can also significantly sharpen our concentration. Energy levels can be raised following a yoga session and those who begin their day with a class tend to be more productive as a result. 

It is also a good calming mechanism and is recommended for those who have an upcoming exam, job interview or assignment. As well as improving sleep patterns, yoga has also been known to improve libido and help fight off cold and flu symptoms. 

Executing the poses correctly is absolutely imperative and therefore attending a class is essential to begin with. Once you are comfortable with these, incorporating them into your daily routine should be fairly straightforward and it is a great way of improving your general mood and outlook. 

Mental health is vitally important and it has increasingly come under the microscope in recent years. Ensuring you go to work with a healthy mind can make a significant difference to productivity and many companies are now incorporating it into their daily practices. There are a number of ways to fight the early signs of stress and stop those money worries or workplace issues building up but exercise is undoubtedly one of the most effective solutions. 

Taking a quick stroll along the promenade or going for a quick dip at your local swimming pool can help gain a fresh outlook on life and potentially provoke renewed optimism. Getting active can make a real difference and although taking the first steps can often be tricky, it is medically proven to provide long-term benefits to both your mental health and well-being. 

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