Top sports to improve anxiety and boost mental health

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With the fast pace of modern life, it is perhaps not very surprising that many people struggle with anxious feelings.

Abiding by a healthy diet and embracing self-care are two ways to help combat day-to-day stress, though sports therapist and former elite athlete Karen Mack of Well lab (welllab.co.uk), is adamant sporting activities can be a great way to get the endorphins pumping and find a sense of balance as well. Read on for details.

Dance

Whether you like to tango or want to give some TikTok-style routines a whirl, dancing can have a huge impact on emotions.

"When we dance, we release endorphins and elevate dopamine - the two neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness. It lifts mood, as well as improves posture, flexibility, and increases aerobic power and strength. Dancing is also great for building social bonds - something that helps reduce stress and anxiety," she shared. "Individuals could try anything from salsa, tap dancing, or even find a local tea dance - just remember to not worry about if you can or can't dance, even if you hail back to your school disco moves, the benefits can be the same!"

Yoga

No matter what your preferred yoga class is, this ancient practice is sure to make you feel much more centred.

"The breathing and stretching involved in yoga, is an excellent stress-relief activity. It involves a series of moving and stationary poses, or postures, combined with deep breathing. These are all mind-body activities that strengthen your body's natural relaxation response to anxiety or stress," said Karen, adding that not all types of yoga are suitable for those who suffer from anxiety. "For relief from anxiety or stress, opt for gentle yoga or yoga for beginners. I wouldn't suggest power yoga - as this may be too intense."

Tai Chi

Like yoga, Tai Chi is a series of self-paced, flowing body movements, and breathing techniques.

"Although many of the movements involved in Tai Chi have their roots in martial arts, it is a sport that is meant to help calm the mind and condition the body. From my experience, this can even go as far as helping to build bone density, but is also great at lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and helping with conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia," the expert commented.

Kickboxing

For those that are looking for a more intense work out, kickboxing can be a great sport to try.

"Kickboxing is one the perfect stress and anxiety reliever exercises. It's a disciplined sport but you can really take out some built-up angst and get quite rigorous with the punching and kicking movements involved," she noted. "If you kickbox regularly, it will also help you improve your balance, flexibility, and coordination. A good class at a local gym or following the array of YouTube workouts are an easy way to start this sport."

Running

Running not only burns calories, reduces food cravings, and lowers the risk of heart disease, but it can improve mood in a multitude of ways.

"Start slowly and get out in the fresh air, whatever the weather. Also, whilst you're out and about, be sure to take in your surroundings - use every one of your senses to absorb your route and breathe in the fresh air. This will all help you focus on the here and now and hopefully help shift some anxiety," continued Karen.

Walking

Not only is walking free and perhaps one of the simpler activities to do, but it is one of the easiest ways to start getting active, lose weight, and become healthier.

"Walking briskly (about two-three miles per hour pace) for 10 minutes a day will help you burn excess calories, build stamina, and help with a healthy heart," she concluded.

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