7 workouts to help you physically and mentally
“Exercise” isn’t just about caring for your physical body. We also have our mental, emotional, spiritual, and social welfare that needs our attention. Fortunately, just about anything that increases our heart rate releases endorphins, that “feel good” hormone. For those in addiction management or recovery, those endorphins can be a great way to swap a drug high for a natural high.
There are many reasons we may want to improve more than our physique—staying sober is just one of them. Mental workouts keep us sharp, focused, and brain fog at bay. They can also help stave off dementia. Soothing our spiritual selves can make us feel more in tune with ourselves, others, and the universe (no traditional type of faith is required). When we work on our emotional and social well-being, we feel happier, more confident, and can help avoid the blues. Please click here for more information about mental health counseling.
Here are seven workouts that target more than your physique (of course, a healthier body is an excellent benefit, too):
- Running outdoors. Running might be a classic cardio exercise, and it’s a fantastic workout. However, take it outdoors and suddenly you have a much higher chance of getting that runner’s high. Endorphins flow strong with this one, and the fresh air, greenery, and sound of the natural world and your feet on the pavement is an organic type of meditation. Seek out chip trails to be kind to your knees and remember that jogging, running and taking walking breaks, or walking at a brisk pace or incline are all in the running family. Avoid bringing any technology if possible, except a phone for safety if it’s silenced.
- Dancing. Taking a dance class, particular a partner class where you switch partners regularly, is a fantastic way to feed your social need. Humans are social creatures, and we need touch. Dance choreography also challenges you to get in tune with another person, to remember routines, and challenges your agility (which isn’t automatic in all forms of cardio). With so many types of dances and studios available, there’s always something new.
- Yoga. Of course, this ancient practice would make the list, and while just about any yoga class will challenge more than your physique, check out a more traditional class with elements of pranayama (breath control), kirtan (singing), or guided meditation. The savasanas, or poses, were originally designed to get the body ready for hours of seated meditation. It’s an internal, spiritually-based approach to wellness that taps the entire body. The goal of yoga wasn’t initially to work up a sweat or increase flexibility to the degree some yogis have achieved. Check out a class in a more unorthodox setting such as a Buddhist temple for a different approach.
- Boxing. Boxing is arguably one of the most cathartic of sports. Try a genuine boxing gym (most have beginner classes that are small) and learn the real techniques necessary to defend yourself. You’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing you can give—and take—a hit, and taking to that heavy bag under the guidance of a coach is incredibly soothing to the body and mind. Like Rocky said, “It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” Boxing also taps agility, HIIT, and pranayama.
- Rowing. Rowing classes are often available to all ages, and generally start early in the mornings during the spring or autumn. There are dragon boat teams in some cities or traditional rowing classes where you learn to move as a team on still, cool waters. Rowing is a fantastic whole-body workout, but it’s also emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and socially stimulating. Learning to work in tandem with others is a skill we always need to be honing.
- Tai Chi. You’ve probably seen practitioners of this ancient Chinese martial art in parks. It relates to the yin and yang in the movements, and although it was originally created as a form of martial arts and self-defense, it’s evolved to become a series of whole-body exercises. There are five traditional tai chi schools, so it’s tough to consider “tai chi” one specific type of activity. However, it focuses on balances and challenges the entire body and mind with stillness and slow, methodical movements.
- Chess. Did you know that chess is considered a sport in over 100 countries, as well as by the International Olympic Committee. This physically gentle form of exercise is the ultimate brain challenge. It’s established, competitive, has a behavior code and requires peak mental condition—which, in turn, requires solid physical condition. Total concentration may be required for seven hours in some cases. Stress can cause tension and blood pressure spikes, making it not for the faint of heart.
When choosing an exercise, remember that it’s not just about reducing fat cells or increasing muscle size. What other benefits are you getting from the activity? Check out this link for more information on mental health counseling for couples.
Guest post from Trevor McDonald