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Affordable Ways to Keep Fit and Improve Your Mental Health

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The link between fitness and good mental well-being is well-documented, with doctors in some parts of the world even prescribing free gym membership to help battle depression. There are many ways you can improve the fitness of your mind and body. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, and you don’t need to be a professional athlete with the kind of perfect physique you’d expect to see at the Olympic Games.

Public gyms cater for many special requirements, including injuries and even mental health problems. Hitting the gym and going through a moderate to extensive workout may leave you looking like a sweaty mess at the time, but when the session is over, and you’ve had a shower, you’ll be happier and healthier than when you started. It’s also a great way to de-stress after a long day at work.

The number of people working out exploded during the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns. Buying pets, reading, home improvements, online sports betting and watching films were the popular pastimes that helped keep our minds active during the long winter months of 2020 when the world outside seemed to be stuck on pause.

There are other options

Going to the gym and keeping fit isn’t for everyone. For one, it can be expensive when adding up the monthly gym memberships, any training clothing and equipment required, travel and the potentially high personal training costs if you decide to go down that route. Keeping fit at the gym has drastically improved the life and mental health of millions around the world, but it’s important to realise it’s not the only option available to you.

If you are struggling with mental health problems like anxiety and depression, walking through the doors of a popular gym may seem impossible, more daunting than climbing Everest. There’s often the feeling that you’ll be judged, whispered about, or even make a fool of yourself by saying or doing the wrong thing. All of a sudden, a gym workout that was already difficult for beginners just got a lot harder.

There are options available to those who want to get fit and keep fit but don’t fancy attending the gym or even wish to build their fitness and confidence before paying the monthly subscription and moving on to the next step of their training adventure. 

Here are three simple suggestions that will build your fitness and confidence, are free, and can give quick results:

Walking

It’s simple, and it’s easy if you are healthy enough. Walking is the perfect place to start your training journey. Find your most comfortable pair of shoes, plan a route you know well and is as flat and safe as possible, then get out there and pound the pavements. Start slow, walking for as far as you can before returning home to stretch and cool off. 

The fitter you get, the more miles you’ll do. You want to be walking at a moderate pace that is going to get your heart rate up. When you are able to, add a few hills to your route to really push the muscles in your legs.

Running

Another inexpensive way to keep fit and another that has huge potential. Find the shoes that feel best for you, or invest in some proper running shoes. You can enjoy a long, steady run over a few miles that could take minutes or hours, depending on your level of fitness. 

If you are pushed for time, you could try sprinting for short distances then walking for longer periods. This is known as high-intensity training, and it’s great for fitness. It’ll burn fat, provide a whole-body workout, and it can be done in 10–30 minutes, depending on your goals.

Circuits

They can be done from the comfort of your own home or in your garden. You can follow a professional trainer or create your own routine, one that’s perfect for your needs and goals. You don’t need any equipment for bodyweight exercises, and you don’t need too much space around you either. 

Plan to do rounds of three minutes long with the exercise changing every 30 seconds. You should then have a minute rest before going again. Do as many rounds as you can manage. This style of training is all about short bursts, pushing yourself hard for a few minutes. It won’t be long before you are feeling and seeing the benefits.


James Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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