Here Are 4 Ways Moving Your Body Can Improve Your Mental Health

You don't need a full workout to get a mental health boost from moving your body.

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If Sasha Brown-Worsham skips a workout, her mood plummets. “I snap and lash out,” the Maplewood, New Jersey, yoga teacher admits. “I get depressed and agitated and angry.” Her solution? Head into a yoga studio to take on a challenging asana or lace up her sneakers for a run around the neighborhood. “When I am moving, I feel alive!” she says. Fitting time in your schedule to move with the level of commitment Brown-Worsham does isn’t always easy. The average American woman is working long hours of both paid and unpaid labor. Some days you probably find yourself thinking “After doing the grocery run and grabbing coffee with Rachel, how am I really going to fit in a workout?” But then again, if you’re thinking “I could really use a mood boost right now,” you’re not alone in that either. American women are more likely than American men to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and we make up more than half of all mental illness diagnoses in this country. HealthyWay Whether you’re just feeling a little down in the dumps or you’re living with and learning to manage a diagnosed mental illness, there’s solid science out there that shows incorporating just a little movement into your day can make a big difference. Heck, it can even prevent someone who’s struggling from falling into depression (according to the scientists, anyway). If you’re feeling the urge to get on your feet but you don’t think you’ll have time to make it to kickboxing class this week, here are some mood-boosting options that might fit the bill.

1. Dance around your kitchen.

If you can’t make it to the gym, bring the gym to you. Telling Alexa to play something sassy and moving your hips while you stir that tomato sauce won’t just burn some of the calories you’ve consumed throughout the day. Dance movement therapy is actually prescribed by practitioners these days to help people cope with depression. Bonus to doing it in your own kitchen: You really can dance like no one is watching.

2. Take a walk.

A walk around the neighborhood may not help you work up a sweat like you would at CrossFit. But when you’ve got just 45 minutes between the end of the work day and your best friend’s kid’s soccer game, do you really want to show up smelling like the gym? According to one Australian study, as little as 30 minutes in nature every week can decrease your depression risk by 7 percent, and it drops your blood pressure too. Lace up your sneakers and start smelling the roses.

3. Unfurl your yoga mat.

If you’re looking for a quick mood boost, a little quiet meditation and movement may be all you need. The effects of yoga on anxiety have gotten the thumbs up from researchers, and Brown-Worsham confirms that you don’t need to go in the studio to reap the benefits. HealthyWay She’s known to head out on the back porch for a quick yoga session when she feels the need. If you don’t have time for a full yoga class, pull up a quick YouTube class (Yoga With Adriene has 10-minute options) and bliss out.

4. Turn friend time into workout time.

When former Facebook executive Randi Zuckerberg said women have a choice of work, sleep, family or fitness, and they can only pick three, the world erupted. The general response? Randi, you are speaking our language! So if you’re waffling between the much-needed mood boost that comes from coffee with your bestie or the equally needed pick-me-up of a workout, you might just want to marry the two. It turns out the only thing better for your mood than a workout is a workout with a friend.

Jeanne Sager
Jeanne Sager is a writer and photographer from upstate New York. She has strung words together for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and more.

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