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Mental health

Choose green exercises for better mind and body

This article was contributed by the Canadian Kinesiology Alliance.

dad and daughter cyclingSpring is finally here, which means more sunshine, warm weather and outdoor activities and exercise. With the COVID-19 pandemic still going on, having to isolate ourselves from friends and family is having a negative impact on our health and wellness.

Many of us have been experiencing an increase of symptoms related to anxiety and depression, which can lead to other health issues like high blood pressure, fatigue, muscle aches and pain, breathing problems, headaches, panic attacks, etc.

“Green exercise”, or getting active outdoors, is an important tool for supporting better mental health. Being outdoors in nature with trees, sunshine, lakes and rivers can produce a calming effect and have a positive impact on our health and wellness. Our brain is the command center and it controls our body’s physiological functions, so a healthy mind means a healthy body. Exercising (bonus if we do this activity in the sunshine) can increase the release of our body’s feel-good hormones, like serotonin and dopamine, which improves our mood and makes us feel happy. Improved mood means more energy, better mental capacity, improved breathing and less fatigue.

Exposure to the sun several times a week improves Vitamin D levels in our body which is essential for brain health and function and can help reduce depression and anxiety. Vitamin D also improves muscle strength, immune function and calcium absorption for stronger bones.

Spend 30 minutes several times a week outdoors performing activities or exercises like walking, jogging, biking, hiking, canoeing, etc. Midday sun exposure is best for natural Vitamin D production. Choose different green spaces like parks, hiking trails, lakes and rivers to keep exercising fun. Plus, outdoor exercising can help you socially distance and reduce your exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

In our current situation, it is important to keep our mental health in check as it is essential for our health and wellness. If you do not have access to bigger green spaces or have movement limitations, find a kinesiologist to assist you with appropriate exercises and activities.

While it is important to be physically active every day, all Canadians should follow their respective public health authority recommendations. The above is considered, to the best of ParticipACTION’s knowledge at the time of publication, to align with Canadian public-health recommendations. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information.

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