In addition to giving us better health and a fit body, exercise is a natural anti-depressant that can boost our spirits and provide peace in an often hectic world.
It’s easy to get caught up in the transformational aspects of working out because we all want to look our best. But more important than looking good is feeling good, no matter what our airbrushed, celebrity-filled media promotes. Rather than focusing on which workout will get you into those skinny jeans, it might be wiser to find the fitness regimen that will make you happier inside.
Below are 7 soul-satisfying ways exercise can balance the body, and get the spirit into shape:
1. Start Stretching—
Stretching the muscles releases dopamine, an important brain chemical that makes us feel more positive and keeps the mind sharp by improving concentration.
One college study found that when elderly people consistently stretched on a regular basis, they experienced a boost in self-esteem, well-being and satisfaction with life. (Source: American Health Foundation and Academic Press.)
Stretching moves blood through the muscles, waking them up and lessening our chances for injury, and a regular stretching routine has also been shown to help us sleep more soundly.
2. Walk the Worry Away—
If your exercise routine has become something you dread, stop counting miles or calories and just take a walk with no agenda or goals.
Walk because it feels good to move your body, rather than because you’re trying to diet or lose weight. Take the pressure off yourself to achieve and simply enjoy the scenery – or some fun music, television or reading if you’re a treadmill walker.
By changing your motivational mindset and walking for fun and stress relief, it will begin to feel more like pleasure than punishment, eventually giving you the results you want without negative associations.
3. Sports Stop Stress—
Are you a team player? If you’re an outgoing and extroverted person who feels energized by interactions with others, consider finding a sport you enjoy for fitness that doesn’t feel like work.
Some people enjoy golfing, some like jogging with groups in running clubs, while others enjoy faster team sports such as soccer, softball, football, tennis, racquetball, and rugby.
No matter what sport you seek, chances are good there are like-minded teams in your area. Ask friends and coworkers about local leagues, or check out community centers to find a group activity that suits you.
4. Say Yes to Yoga—
Yoga involves stretching in established positions, which we already know benefits mind and body. This is often done in class or group form, which is helpful for motivation, support and guidance.
A proven anxiety-buster, yoga relaxes both body and mind, mixing gentle, slow movements with a relaxing and extremely effective workout.
If you’re too shy for classes, try a beginner’s yoga DVD at home to see if this is the exercise you’ve been seeking to soothe your soul.
5. Weight of the World—
Lifting weights can be surprisingly comforting. This form of exercise gives some people a sense of peace as they count repetitions and repeat an established routine. Weightlifting offers organization to those who thrive on structure, and can effectively eliminate feelings of edgy restlessness.
In addition to building bone mineral density and raising metabolism as muscle mass is increased, strength training can be extremely cathartic. With every lift and release, the body burns off nervous energy and replaces it with a euphoric endorphin rush for the brain.
6. Play with a Pet—
If you have a cat or dog, you’ve done your mind and body a huge favor by decreasing anxiety, lessening depression and lowering your blood pressure.
Multiple studies have shown that animal companions make humans feel better in every way. Dogs also give us an excuse to take a daily walk, which is great for our cardiovascular health.
If you’re in a stable place in your life and able to provide a pet with the attention they need, consider adopting a cat or dog to brighten your days.
7. Funny Fitness—
The power of laughter is officially recognized in the world of science, as researchers realize the effects of laughter and exercise are both effective at burning calories and releasing oxygen into the blood.
Laughing on a regular basis can boost the immune system, lower blood sugar and help promote relaxation, making it physically important to find things to keep ourselves chuckling. Because it’s beneficial both psychologically and physically, laughter yoga has been gaining in popularity, with classes being offered in many cities.
Life is short, and spending precious time doing things we don’t enjoy or trying to be something we’re not is a pretty frustrating existence. Instead, focus on how strong and healthy you can make the body you’ve been given, so you can truly appreciate it.
It’s important to take good care of our mind as well as our muscles, and exercise done right can enhance the quality of our lives in all ways. Use the tips above – or use your amazing brain to think up some ideas of your own – and mix fitness with pleasure for the good of your body and soul.