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Optimize Your Workout for Better Mental Health

Optimize Your Workout for Better Mental Health

Consistent exercise builds cardiovascular strength, increases energy and lowers your risk for chronic illness, but it can also benefit your mental health. Learn how to optimize your workout for the best impact on your emotional and mental health.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to alter your exercise routine. Not only will adjusting your workout (or starting one) impact different areas of the body, it can also improve your mental wellness. It’s also a great way to get out and try something new. You might be surprised and find that some of these activities and exercises also benefit your mental well being.


Eastern practices

Eastern practices and medicine incorporate exercises that focus on uniting the body and mind. Yoga, for example, while considered by some to solely be an exercise, also commonly includes meditation. Yoga is great for strength and flexibility — which is important at every age. Other practices such as tai chi and Jin Shin Jyutsu are believed to bring the mind, spirit and body into harmony through slow, gentle movements.

Group exercise

Participating in sports or other physical activities in a group can ease stress, build teamwork skills and even help you make new friends. While the pandemic put lots of in-person gatherings on hold, more classes have become available recently; some have even started holding virtual fitness classes.

If you're interested in attending exercise classes in person, make sure you and everyone who will attend is vaccinated and will be masked. Ensure that the facility or business you attend is also following COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Go outdoors

Stepping outside is great for the mind and body. Challenge yourself with hikes, walks, swimming and other outdoor activities. Late spring and summer months are perfect times for traveling and going outside your comfort zone. Find nearby state parks or hiking trails to explore.

High intensity workouts

Commonly known as HIIT workouts, if you're going through a particularly hard time with anxiety, depression or just having a bad day, high-intensity interval training is a great way to let off some steam. Find an exercise video to follow or attend a HIIT workout class to instantly lessen your load and improve your mood. Some examples of HIIT workouts include:

  • Interval running: Run as hard as you can for 1 minute, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this process for a total of 30 minutes.
  • Stationary bike: Pedal quickly for 30 seconds, then return to a normal pace for a couple minutes. Repeat this for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Squatting. For 1 or 2 minutes, try to get as many squats in as possible then take a brief break. Repeat for 30 minutes (optional: hold weights while you squat).

Do something fun

Pick an exercise or activity that you enjoy. Although it can be nerve-racking to try something new, find a new exercise to try. Zumba, hiking and boxing are fun ways to get out of your comfort zone. It’s also something you can do with friends.

Improve your mental health and simultaneously discover new ways to live an active lifestyle. El Camino Health offers free, virtual classes such as yoga, that you can participate in. Discover something new that can benefit your physical and mental health.


This article first appeared in the January 2022 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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