5 Mood-Boosting Workouts
Whether you want to perk up, calm down, feel sharper, or just get happier, there’s a mind-altering routine for you.
The science: A little down? Assume upward dog. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine examined the anxiety levels and moods of people who practiced yoga for an hour three times a week. Yoga practice is associated with increased levels of GABA, an amino acid and neurotransmitter that may help reduce anxiety, according to Chris Streeter, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, and the lead author of the study. Also, slow, deep yogic breathing increases oxygen flow, which leads to optimal functioning of all your organs—including your brain, according to Anita Herur, M.D., an assistant professor of physiology at S. Nijalingappa Medical College, in India. Another 2010 study, published in the Al Ameen Journal of Medical Sciences, led by Herur, looked at the physical effects of yoga on new practitioners and linked the practice to improved overall mood. The researchers found that in the study’s subjects the parasympathetic nervous system—the part of the nervous system that promotes relaxation—kicked into high gear “around three months after starting yoga,” says Herur.
How to put it into practice: If you’re new to yoga, your first step should be to learn correct breathing, says Lynn Louise Wonders, a yoga teacher and the owner of the Yoga Room, in Marietta, Georgia. Wonders advises, “Breathe in through your nose to the count of five. Hold for two counts, then exhale through your nose to the count of five, emptying your lungs completely.” Repeat five times. Now you’re ready to merge the breathing with movement. Look for a beginner’s class with a qualified instructor (find a studio through the Yoga Alliance Registry; yogaalliance.org). If you prefer to practice at home, check out Shiva Rea’s Flow Yoga for Beginners ($15, amazon.com). Aim to take one 60-minute class a week. But even 10 minutes done every day at home may improve your outlook. The key is consistency.