How Does Exercise Improve My Mental Health?

We know exercise is good for the body, however, do we really know what effects it has on certain mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, stress, etc?

People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.

Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on certain mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits.

Modest amounts of exercise have been shown to make a difference. Regardless of your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.

Exercise can help improve certain mental health conditions in the following ways:

Exercise and depression

Exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. By walking for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Exercise also helps reduce symptoms and reduce the probability of a relapse. Exercise also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain, that energize your spirits and make you feel good


Exercise and anxiety

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.


Exercise and stress

Ever notice how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body.


Exercise and ADHD

Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood by boosting the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels as these improve focus and attention.


Exercise and PTSD and trauma

Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of allowing your mind to wander, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movements and engage both arms and legs, such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing are some of your best choices.

Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

Exercise is the cheapest and most readily available form of therapy to help improve some aspects of our mental health. Take advantage of it!