When it comes to exercise there's a whole host of ever-inventive excuses we find ourselves falling back on, but none are used quite as much as: 'I'm not in the mood'.
undoubtedly hard to drag yourself to the gym when all you want to do is
curl up on the sofa, but what if we told you it's possible to tailor your training regime to include workouts that tackle specific moods head-on.
Professor Cathy Speed, consultant in rheumatology, sport and exercise medicine at Progress,
the Cambridge centre for health and performance, gave us an insight
into which exercises you should be doing when you're stuck in a mood.
Feeling sluggish: try HIIT
If you often feel groggy, tired and generally not quite with-it, you're in good company. A survey commissioned by Legal & General found that 34% of people questioned reported low-level, general fatigue to be their biggest health concern, something that Cathy says impedes our ability to function properly, and which can be fought off through exercise.
Cathy says getting out of your exercise comfort zone and
doing short bursts of activity is one of the best way to keep ourselves
"I can recommend HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), sprinting, fast swimming or an hour-long general fitness class."
The short but intense nature gets your blood pumping and engages muscles
you might not normally use, which in turn increases dopamine ("happy
hormone") levels. Secondly, the fact that you cannot switch to 'auto-pilot' will keep your brain engaged and allow you to focus and, thirdly, it doesn't take long for you to feel the effects.
Feeling forgetful: go swimming
According to the NHS, one of the most likely causes of memory loss is stress, because when we're stressed it interferes with our brains' capacity to encode new information.
A 2015 study reveals that long-term mild exercise
plays a big factor in enhancing the performance of our hippocampus, the
part of the brain that's in charge of memory. So high intensity "stress
busting" workouts, such as boxing or spin classes, are probably not the best option if your memory is suffering.
is clearly understood is that extreme sustained exercise can impair
cognitive function, and dehydration during exercise will magnify this
effect. Therefore, long term, mild-to-moderate intensity exercise may be
best for memory."
Instead, take some time out to go on long jogs or swim breaststroke and see if your memory (and stress levels) start to improve.
Feeling lonely: try a dance class
If you feel persistently
lonely, take comfort in the fact that (for want of a better phrase)
you're not alone.
People who are feeling lonesome should avoid isolated activities
such as swimming and running, and try to stay away from the confinement
of a small underground gym. Instead, grab some friends or join a group
and head outside.
"Focus on the
social aspects of being active in a group or with a friend, as well as
the relaxation of being in the fresh air, away from phones and
computers. The mental space created by a change in environment and
looking and listening to surrounding wildlife can be extremely valuable
in lifting someone's mood, so group walks are something that might help a
However, if you're wanting exercise that's a bit more strenuous than walking, try looking into social fitness classes, such as zumba or dancing
(preferably outside!). Avoid competitive classes, such as circuits as,
while you are doing exercise in a group, you remain isolated in each
Feeling depressed: head outdoors
Studies show that exercise is comparable to antidepressants in effectiveness for patients with a major depressive disorder. This is because depression is associated with decreased serotonin (the brain chemicals responsible for maintaining mood balance) levels, which are boosted when we are active.
"Physical exercise is found
to alter nerve development and improves serotonin activity, the
mechanisms that contribute to mood improvement. Most forms of exercise
help depression, but to achieve the changes in chemicals and nerve
activity it is generally recommended that moderate intensity exercise
most days of the week is undertaken for an anti-depressant effect."
This is where a long term, varied workout plan should come into play.
Take some time to experiment with different activities and keep a log
of which ones make you feel best. If you can't stand the idea of
spending lots of your free time shut in a gym, take advantage of local community park or green space.
Not only will the fresh air give you an extra boost, the varying
scenery will keep you exercising for longer – much better than staring
at the wall in front of the treadmill!
Feeling anxious: try the rowing machine
Anxiety disorders are more prevalent than any other mental health disorder, composing the majority of lifetime mental health disorders worldwide. Exercise tackles anxiety by mimicking many of the symptoms but with a positive, rather than negative, effect.
may help to regulate chemicals at brain level or help the body to
become accustomed to higher heart rates, sweating and some discomfort
associated with exertion - common in exercise and also in anxiety."
With this in mind, cardio exercises that also incorporate some muscle work are ideal if you're feeling anxious. Work up a sweat and get your heart pumping on the bike or rowing machine,
aiming to push through your initial discomfort to master your body for a
sustained amount of time. Not only will this build-up your stamina and
strength, but it'll also enable your body to better handle anxiety attacks in the future.
If your nerves are feeling particularly frayed, however, it might be
best to start with something that's a bit lower in intensity with relaxation as a main focus.
confers a relaxation benefit and disciplines such as yoga and Pilates
promote mental focus, strength and flexibility. However, very intensive,
prolonged exercise or a lack of recovery from exercise sessions can
result in sleep disturbance and depression."
To avoid making matters worse, be sure to balance your workouts with capability and capacity. If you find that you're moods aren't lifting with exercise, or are getting worse, be sure to contact your GP as soon as possible.