5 recreational activities that boost your mental health

Jan 31 2017 - 6:36pm

Are you staying active every day to improve your mental health and well-being?

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 30 minutes of exercise per day at least five days a week. This is geared toward optimum health, but your bones and muscles are not the only parts of your body that benefit from it. Your mental health is another beneficiary. The mental benefits come more from recreation than high-intensity exercises, and multiple studies support this.

A study from the government institution California Outdoor Recreation Planning Program shows that people who participate regularly in outdoor recreational activities experience a decrease in depression, less stress and a higher quality of life. About 81 percent of those who engaged in recreation often saw a decline in depression, stress and anxiety.

There are also social benefits from outdoor recreation such as more united families, more appreciation for nature, stronger youth support, more volunteerism in communities and significantly lower crime rates. Experts also point out that regular physical activity can have a positive impact on mental health disorders and promote stronger social bonds.

If you desire the above benefits, then you may want to try some of the following recreational activities.

1. Walking

Whether you have a negative attitude or you are struggling to focus at work, taking a brisk walk may help. A study from the University of Pittsburgh reveals that walking offers enough physical exercise to activate the brain while improving memory and increasing productivity.

2. Fly fishing

Fly fishing can be a great activity for both physical exertion and meditation. Fly fishers must move in order to catch something and wading through water adds intensity to the activity. As you work your body, your mind and mood can benefit from the effort.

It is also a quiet, solitary experience with little stress, which gives you time to think through challenges and problems. Experts share that when you are holding a fishing rod in your hand as the bait glides atop the water, you will find yourself in a place of serenity that can eliminate stress.

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3. Camping

Camping offers your brain an escape from media and technology overload, and you may not realize how much you crave nature. You probably spend a significant portion of your day online and waste hours searching for information for work or recreation. Research shows that too much time online without a break can have an impact on the brain’s ability to remember and think creatively, according to a study from the University of California.

Taking a camping trip without electricity is the perfect solution. It gives your brain a chance to operate on its own without relying on technology. Even if it is just for one night, the effect can be restorative and beneficial for your mental health.

4. Organized sports

Although any kind of physical activity will boost brain function, organized sports are very effective. You can socialize with like-minded peers while getting your exercise. The results can include improved mood, better concentration, enhanced social skills, reduced stress, less anxiety and higher self-confidence.

Studies have also revealed a link between participation in organized sports and strong leadership traits. In a sample of 60 high school students, athletes showed greater leadership capabilities than those who did not participate in sports.

5. Skiing and snowboarding

During the winter, the number of patients who report feelings of depression and anxiety is higher than at any other time of the year. About 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is also known as winter depression.

In addition to recommending an increase in vitamin D intake, doctors prescribe outdoor recreation as the best medicine. Skiing and snowboarding are the perfect activities for this time of year. They require physical exertion to improve health and have a direct impact on the brain’s pleasure receptors. Participants may also receive more sun exposure, which promotes vitamin D production and decreases depression.

Stay active for your mental health

Recreation and physical movement is often helpful for mental health issues. Whether you are struggling with the winter blues or trying to get through a stressful period at work, going outdoors and participating in these activities may help.

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