Exercise is often associated with the physical benefits that come along with it, like a smaller waistline and stronger, more toned muscles. But, enthusiasts also tout many benefits beyond the aesthetic ones. Exercise can improve your mental health and mood, which can be especially beneficial if you have depression.

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While common forms of activity like running and lifting weights are a great way to get moving, other less practiced types of exercise can boost your mood too. In two new, unrelated studies, researchers found benefits of tai chi and rock climbing among people with depression.

Benefits of Tai Chi

Practicing tai chi, a noncompetitive martial art, may help reduce depression symptoms, according to a pilot study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital studied the effect of tai chi on a group of 50 participants, all of whom were Chinese-American adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

The participants were randomized into three different groups — one that participated in a 12-week tai chi program; a group that engaged in interactive and educational discussions on mental health; and a group that came for repeat assessments during and after the study period.

Subjects in the tai chi group were taught traditional moves and were asked to practice them at home three times a week. At the end of the 12-week period, the researchers found that their depression symptoms improved more than the other two groups. A follow-up assessment three months post-intervention revealed the tai chi group sustained their improved symptoms.

“While some previous studies have suggested that tai chi may be useful in treating anxiety and depression, most have used it as a supplement to treatment for other medical conditions, rather than patients with depression,” lead author Albert Yeung, said in a statement. “Finding that tai chi can be effective is particularly significant because it is culturally accepted by this group of patients who tend to avoid conventional psychiatric treatment.”

Read: Sleep Problems In Those With Anxiety, Depression May Make Positivity Harder

Benefits of Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a fun and effective way to get in a full-body workout that involves strength training and cardio. Research has shown that it can reduce stress, and now a new study suggests it may be able to effectively ease symptoms of depression.

Researchers studied more than 100 individuals in Germany, where some hospitals use climbing as a form of therapy. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group began immediately bouldering for three hours a week over the course of eight weeks, while the other group waited to begin. Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that doesn’t use any ropes or harness. Their depression symptoms were assessed at various points throughout the study using well-known diagnostic questionnaires.

When the researchers looked at data from the same time period, they found that the group who immediately began bouldering had a greater improvement in depression symptoms than the wait-listed group.

"You have to be mindful and focused on the moment. It does not leave much room to let your mind wonder on things that may be going on in your life — you have to focus on not falling,” study author Eva-Maria Stelzer said in a statement. “Bouldering not only has strong mental components, but it is accessible at different levels so that people of all levels of physical health are able to participate.”

See also: Global Depression Rates Have Soared In Last Decade; Half Of People With Condition Do Not Get Treatment: WHO

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