It is relatively common knowledge these days, that exercise is not only good for us physically, but also for our mental health. Studies show time and time again, that particularly in cases of ‘mild’ depression or anxiety, even basic physical activity can have a hugely positive impact.
The term “exercise” however, is quite nebulous by default. The range of intensities alone leave it confusing to know what’s best, and that’s before we even bring ‘sport’, or ‘competition’ into the options.
The answer, usually, is whatever you naturally enjoy the most (or at least tolerate the most). Not everybody is overly competitive for example, and not everybody is overly sociable, so go with whatever variety of activities work best for YOU.
What I would always recommend, however; whatever your chosen pursuits are, is to make the effort to get outdoors once in a while.
And I don’t just mean a walk around town, or a city break. It has generated more and more attention in recent years, that studies are also showing a great benefit to our mental health by simply getting out into green, open spaces. Parks, woods, AONB (areas of outstanding natural beauty), ANYWHERE, either man-made or wild that contains trees, plants and wildlife.
Green is a really important colour it would seem, to the balance of chemicals in our brain. This might be due to our instinctive distrust of an environment devoid of it, as historically this would have meant an environment without sufficient vegetation, which would have been considered unsafe. Possibly. Whatever the case, it would appear that being in a ‘natural’, or ‘green’ environment can calm our anxieties.
So, this is why I am a big fan of training our fitness in-and-amongst the great outdoors. All of the benefits of exercise, doubled up with the benefits of being out in nature. For my money, trail-running is the perfect blend.
Most of the training I do with clients focus mainly around higher intensity workouts, or strength and conditioning; simply because that’s where my expertise are most useful/valuable. However, my personal favourite training sessions are the longer, lower intensity trail runs up in the hills, usually on my own. It takes a fair amount of training before a hilly run can be considered a low intensity session, but it’s well worth the effort when you get there.
I find that whatever problems I set off with, have been greatly reduced when I return. There’s something about the way it allows the mind to wonder freely, whilst maintaining a basic focus on the task at hand, such as footwork and navigation. It’s like this is MY time now, and real life can wait for me.
Running produces endorphins the same as any other physical activity does, but moving this activity into the wild, and *corn alert* ‘connecting with nature’ really helps us switch off, go offline and reboot. I believe our brains cry out for this, particularly in this stressful modern world.