Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Month! Exercise may not be top of mind when you think of mental health, but your physical and mental well-being are more intertwined than you may realize. For starters, the benefits of exercise go far beyond the physical, ranging from better sleep and increased cognitive power to boosted mood, reduced symptoms of depression, and less stress.
To help you tap into the power of movement for your mental health, we've created a weeklong workout challenge in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Alongside three of our POPSUGAR trainers, you'll move through yoga flows, mood-boosting barre workouts, and conscious cardio that'll get your heart beating and the endorphins flowing.
"These workouts are different because . . . they aren't about pushing or beating yourself up, they are about building self-confidence and feeling good in your body and mind."
"Movement is medicine," says Rachel McClusky, creator of the Recharge Method and one of the Class Fitsugar trainers featured here. "When we move our bodies, we give ourselves an opportunity to move stagnant energy out of the body, boost our mood with endorphins, and celebrate all of the amazing things our bodies do for us."
Nikki Nie, fellow POPSUGAR trainer and creator of the Wavelength Movement Platform, which blends movement, breath work, and meditation, seconds that. "Everything is energy, and when our mind is spinning and causing us mental suffering, that usually means our energy is scattered and being too consumed by the fluctuations of the mind," she says. "The energetic effort required by physical fitness helps us release pent-up energy and in turn allows our mind to calm."
The point of this challenge isn't to complete all seven workouts for achievement's sake (and feel like a failure if you don't). Instead, think of this as a weeklong workout plan dedicated to helping you tap into your fitness intention and reconnect with your body. At the very least, it'll take all the guesswork out of your workouts this week. At most, it could leave you feeling amazing, head to toe.
"Going into a challenge like this I would encourage everyone to have an open mindset and give themselves grace in the process," says Christa Janine, certified yoga instructor and POPSUGAR trainer. One of the benefits of doing a seven-day challenge like this is that it helps you kick-start a daily routine with a habit that's sustainable, she says. And while the word "routine" implies a certain amount of strictness, it doesn't need to be that way. "Creating a routine can also mean accepting imperfection, listening to your body, and doing what feels right for you," McClusky urges. "Consider the mental benefits, ask yourself if it feels right for you each day, and trust that you will always feel better after moving your body."
This challenge also "shows you that all movement is beneficial for your body and mental health even if they're not extremely intense and exhaustively long." She's right: when it comes to both your mental and physical health, experts and research concur that some movement is better than none. In fact, just 11 minutes of exercise per day can go a long way in terms of health benefits.
To try the challenge for yourself, see the full YouTube playlist of workouts here, or keep scrolling to see all the routines — including tips and insight from the trainers on each one. If you give yourself one goal in this, enjoy!