What Type of Exercise Are You in the Mood For?
Workouts can improve your mood as well as your muscle tone, whether you are
feeling down in the dumps or stressed out after a long day at the office. If
you are already feeling happy at the end of a productive week, mood-boosting
exercise can be the icing on the cake, adding a pleasurable high -- without the
sugar -- to your good spirits. What is the best way to find the type of
exercise that will improve your mood as well as your body? "It depends on the
particular person -- that's my refrain," says Kate F. Hays, PhD, a
Toronto-based psychologist and author of Move Your Body, Tone Your Mood.
"Individuals have to find exercises that appeal to them, the kind they actually
For Hays, that type of exercise is running. "I was a practicing clinical
psychologist in New Hampshire when I started running," she recalls. "I fell in
love with it. And I became really intrigued by how I was able to problem-solve
my own issues while running. As I learned and understood more, I began to
incorporate exercise into my practice. Now, when seeing a new patient, I build
in from the beginning that physical activity is going to help their mental
health. I will walk -- and, sometimes, run -- with my patients during
- Whatever type of exercises you are considering, Hays suggests a few
guidelines: Exercise should be rhythmic and repetitive rather than stop
and go to keep your heart rate at an elevated, yet even, level. Think cycling
- Exercise should require little skill or training, allowing you to perform
without too much concentration.
- Exercise should be non-competitive. Why risk your mood on winning or
- Exercise should be of moderate intensity.
Remember: these are only guidelines. The type of exercise you choose is up
to you. Some days you may be happy walking, but if you are experiencing
depression or anxiety, high intensity types of exercise may give you the
biggest mood boost.
April Swales, a personal trainer at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas,
Texas, agrees that finding the ideal type of exercise is an individual matter:
a one-size-fits-all approach won't work. In her case, she finds that
relaxing stretches done to soft music are the most effective way to beat back
the stress of a bad day. Some forms of yoga and tai chi also can help you wind
down. Other people battle stress by sweating it out on the stair climber. Still
others find exercise classes relaxing, because their stress comes from being in
charge all day. In class, they follow instructions rather than give them -- for
"When you are stressed or down, the best thing is to be doing some kind of
exercise rather than eating a half gallon of Haagen Dazs," says Swales.