It is common knowledge that physical activity is good for our physical health. It develops muscle strength and power and helps us to improve stamina, joint strength, and mobility. But what about the effect that exercise has on our minds, and overall well-being? If you want to know more about how your favorite sport benefits your health and well-being, or perhaps you want to try a new sport, this guide shows you some of the most popular activities for a healthy, happy life.
Running is a form of cardiovascular exercise that brings benefits to all parts of the body. While running, our hearts work harder to pump blood around the body, helping to strengthen the heart. Running also reduces the risk of heart disease associated with being overweight and high levels of cholesterol, through the body becoming healthier because of regular exercise.
Running is a full body exercise, and works out all muscle groups, which means we get stronger and fitter the more often we run. Our joints also gain strength, meaning there is less change of joint-related injury as we age.
Another benefit of running is the changes it makes to our appearance. It helps us to lose weight, and it also changes our metabolism over time. Regular runners tend to have a higher metabolism, meaning their bodies naturally burn more calories than someone who doesn’t enjoy and partake in this pursuit. When we work our muscles, it gives them definition. Running also helps rid us of toxins, and this, among other benefits, gives our skin a healthy glow and calms skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
There are advantages to our mental health too. Running releases happy hormones and brain chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. They don’t call it the ‘runner’s high’ for nothing! After a run, you can expect to feel relaxed for the rest of the day and more able to deal with general stress. Regular running is effective in treating symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may reduce the need for medications in some patients, however, always consult a doctor first. Running also has a meditative effect, and the rhythm of footsteps can be soothing. Not only that, but it also give us time on our own to think through problems, and find the solutions that were not clear to us before.
So, next time you feel like you have the world on your shoulders, dig out your running shoes and head out for a jog!
Golf is a game that is both physically active as well as a mental challenge. Spending a day walking around an 18 hole course will see many miles covered while spending time in the fresh air, and you also have to use your strategic thinking skills to plan your next few shots. Spending time outside helps to improve your mental well-being by reducing stress and the risk of depression, so playing golf is often a key way for many people to unwind.
Golfers carry a bag of different sized irons, and the one that is chosen will affect the distance and accuracy of a golf ball, and getting this right is all part of the mental aspect of the game. The best game improvement irons will see a player improve their swing, and help hit the ball on target.
The physical activity of playing golf boosts blood flow to the brain, helping to keep nerves and cells healthy. It may play a part in delaying some mental health conditions such as depression.
The social aspect is another benefit that golf brings to health and well-being. Golf is often played amongst friends and offers a chance to talk. A good social life is one of the key points of feeling happy and fulfilled, and playing golf regularly means you see your friends and have the opportunity to meet new people too.
Furthermore, golf is great for weight loss. Some courses can cover 200 acres, so a day spent walking after your ball and carrying golf clubs can add up to a large amount of calories burned. Even using a golf buggy and just walking around while you take your shot can add up. Then consider the energy and muscles you use while swinging a golf club to hit the ball and the bending and stretching you do to line up the angle of a shot; golf is a full body workout!
Hiking on a trail through natural surroundings improves our muscle strength, core and balance as we contend with different terrains. One moment we might be climbing up a steep hillside, picking our way through boulders along a seashore, or stepping across streams. The variety of body movements we make as we hike makes it an all over workout.
There are many different kinds of hiking trails and footpaths, making hiking accessible to all levels of activity. There are also trails for people with mobility problems who might depend on a wheelchair to get around.
Hiking is a way to combine exercise with the things that interest you. For example, nature enthusiasts will enjoy spotting wildlife and plants, adventure junkies can enjoy trekking in the wilderness, and city walkers can take in the history and culture of their surroundings.
Another benefit that hiking brings to our well-being is that it is a good stress reliever. Being outside is good for our health as we breathe in fresh air and benefit from natural daylight. The natural surroundings of many hiking trails have a sense of peace and tranquility that help us to get away from the stresses of modern life for a while.
You don’t need much equipment to go hiking, and that is why it is a good sport for anyone who wants to improve their health. The basic requirements are a good pair of walking shoes or boots, and water to stay hydrated. Depending on how far you want to go, a map may also be useful.
While yoga may not be something you associate with the noticeable effect of cardio exercise, it is something that gets your blood flowing. Some yoga poses require stamina and strength to hold, and this increased heart rate will improve circulation.
Yoga strengthens and conditions your body, and when you hold the different yoga poses, it improves the flexibility of the joints. It can provide relief from chronic pain, such as backaches when practiced over time.
Aside from the physical benefits of yoga, there are some mental benefits too. Yoga poses are not the sort of positions that we usually find ourselves in for any length of time. Being able to hold those positions, and feel at ease while doing so, has the added effect of helping us cope with stress in everyday life. Yoga can help boost positive emotions and provide relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression. It also improves your ability to focus mentally, and that is a skill that you can apply to everyday life.
Yoga is often practiced alongside mindfulness, which is a technique that focuses awareness on the present moment with the intention of holding it there. To do it for any length of time takes practice, but it does bring about benefits to mental health. Yoga helps to cultivate mindfulness, as the focus is on the sensations we feel and our emotions when we hold yoga poses. Being mindful bring lots of benefits to our lives. It helps us to leave stresses behind and focus on the now, lessening difficult symptoms. It encourages us to make healthy choices, such as being mindful of the foods we eat and how we treat ourselves and others. It helps us to feel grateful for the good things that we have in our lives.
Anyone can begin practicing yoga. All you need is a comfortable and quiet place, and some poses to follow. There are yoga poses for all levels of ability, and an internet search will bring up some examples for you to try. Start with easy poses, and gradually try more complex ones as your strength and skill develops.
So, far from being a simple set of stretches and poses, practicing yoga can have far-reaching benefits to your health and well-being.
So often sports are viewed as a way to be physically fit and strong, and a method to lose those few extra inches we’d rather not have. While the mental benefits of exercise have been well documented, for example, it helps us to feel happy as it releases hormones that make us relaxed, the mental benefits of exercise are so often overlooked by some people who focus on muscle gain or weight loss.
Without strong mental health, we suffer. It doesn’t matter how fit and able you are; if you are not in the right place emotionally, it is difficult to cope with any stress that life sends. By taking part in sports that benefit or health and well-being, you are taking care of yourself, and that can improve your self-esteem and confidence. Who knew you could get all of that from sport!