This 7-Day Workout Challenge Is Designed to Make You Feel Happier, Calmer, and Stronger


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!

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Day 1: 10-Minute Mood-Shifting Barre Workout With Nikki Nie

Ready for Day 1? You'll ease yourself into the week with a 10-minute barre routine that Nie makes more spiritual than you'd ever imagine.

This routine (and her other workouts included here) are "programmed and taught from the lens of yoga, tantra, and Ayurveda because that is what I practice," she says. "These workouts are different because they invite you to use the movement as a doorway to connecting more intimately with your soul. They aren't about pushing or beating yourself up, they are about building self-confidence and feeling good in your body and mind."

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Day 2: 10-Minute Feel-Good Standing Workout With Rachel McClusky

As Janine noted: a workout doesn't need to be an hour long to be worth it. Join McClusky for this 10-minute feel-good standing cardio workout, and applaud yourself for showing up.

"Moving our body is a form of giving back to ourselves," she says. "I truly believe that when we set an intention for a workout, we are connecting to more than the physical aspect of movement."

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Day 3: 10-Minute Core-Focused Yoga Workout With Christa Janine

Yoga is a great way to release stress and also reduce anxiety in the body, Janie says, partially because of the breathing exercises involved. Plus, "moving in an intentional manner allows you to start and complete a task in a short period of time, which offers a confidence boost," she says.

Janine describes both her classes in this challenge as "fast-paced and nonstop," which doesn't necessarily sound synonymous with stress relief — but it is. "This is great for mindful movement because it forces you to be present in both their minds and bodies simultaneously," she explains.

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Day 4: 30-Minute Conscious Cardio Workout With Nikki Nie

Instead of zoning out during your cardio sesh, zone in. Day 4's workout is a 30-minute conscious cardio routine from Nie. And now that you're a few days into the challenge, check in with yourself: how does this daily movement feel? "The key to change is consistency, so something like this seven-day challenge is a way to motivate us to show up and stay disciplined for ourselves," she says. "When we say we're going to do something and then we actually do it, it creates a sense of pride and trust within."

Because ultimately, that's the goal. "My hope is that these classes build you physically but most importantly mentally," she says. "We are only as healthy as our minds, so when you work out with me do it because you love yourself, and the outward appearance will organically take care of itself."

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Day 5: 30-Minute Low-Impact Cardio Workout With Rachel McClusky

Yes, a cardio workout can also be a low-impact workout. On Day 5, join McClusky for this 30-minute routine and know that you'll be able to power through. "Set an intention, allow yourself to go at your own pace, and focus on how amazing your body is for moving you," she says. "And have fun!"

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Day 6: 30-Minute Power Yoga Flow With Christa Janine

Janine admits that this Day 6 power yoga flow is challenging — not necessarily because of the yoga poses involved, but because it's a practice in mindfulness
. This flow "has students moving from the front and back of their mats in a flow and if they're not present with the cueing, they'll get lost," she says. But don't let that scare you off. "Even though it's challenging, this type of mindful movement teaches us how to focus on the task at hand instead of constantly thinking about multiple things at once."

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Day 7: 30-Minute Barre Workout to Recenter Your Mind and Body

Seal in the magic of this week of workouts with Nie's 30-minute mindful barre routine. If you loved this challenge don't hesitate to repeat these workouts throughout Mental Health Awareness month (or the rest of the year!) as long as it keeps feeling good for you.

If you didn't make it to Day 7 — or you did, but with some obstacles or deviations along the way — that's perfectly OK. "We can't beat ourselves up or feel guilty if we aren't perfect," Nie says, "because ultimately, it's not about perfection, it's about intention."