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As weather warms, outdoor activities can help with mental health

May typically brings an increase in sunny skies and warmer weather, prompting residents across the region to spend more time outdoors. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, getting outside to enjoy nature and engaging in physical activity can help alleviate some mental health symptoms.

While regular exercise’s direct impact on mental health is still being studied, researchers found many instances where exercise helped reduce the chances of developing depression or experiencing symptoms.

“Everyone knows exercise is great for physical health, but it’s also really beneficial for mental health, emotional health,” said Mike Shapiro, vice president of operations for Ignite Fitness Holdings with Planet Fitness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the “feel-good” endorphins released during exercise help reduce stress. An individual may also have more confidence as they better their relationship with their bodies and socialize with like-minded individuals.

Shapiro added that regular exercise also helps improve overall physical health, which often positively impacts mental health. For example, he said exercise can boost immune and brain health, improve disease management and strengthen bones. Shapiro emphasized that even the smallest movements can significantly impact a person’s mental health.

If a person runs for 15 minutes or walks an hour a day, their chances of experiencing depression can reduce by 26%, according to a report by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Anything you can do is a great starting point. Just get yourself active, and there’s no such thing as too little,” Shapiro said. “Whether it’s walking down the street or house or walking on a treadmill for an hour.”

Starting with support 

Everyone’s routine and exercise style will be different, but Shapiro recommends starting small and with plenty of support. For example, bringing friends and family to fitness classes creates a challenging but encouraging environment. 

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