June 13, 2023

6 Ways Exercise Boosts Mental Health

By Robert Fisher
6 Ways Exercise Boosts Mental Health

Most people understand that exercise provides many physical benefits. Do you want to improve your muscle mass or trim your waistline? Is your goal better blood pressure or glucose management? Are you searching for something that can improve your stamina and add years to your life? 

There’s no disputing that getting active can help you achieve more profound health outcomes. However, some of us still need a bigger push to lace up our shoes and head out the door. 

Did you know that there are proven psychological benefits to exercise too? No matter your age or current fitness level, exercise can be a powerful companion in attacking mental health problems, improving your outlook, and getting the most out of life.

If you are struggling mentally already, your first thought may be that starting a workout routine is the furthest thing from your mind! You can succeed by setting realistic goals and preparing for and accepting setbacks.

Integrate activities that you already enjoy doing and develop backup plans so that roadblocks don’t keep you from reaching your goals.

Remember that something is better than nothing. Even short sessions of activity add up. Small changes, even unstructured exercise sessions, can help you realize the mental health benefits of exercise.

Let’s dive deeper into the specific ways that exercise can improve mental health and have a positive impact beyond the physical.

Reduced Stress & Anxiety

We all experience stress and anxiety at different times in our lives. For some, anxiety disorders are a larger part of their life that impact their daily routine.

Engaging in regular physical activity works to effectively reduce stress and anxiety levels. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain that act as painkillers and mood boosters. 

These endorphins interact with receptors in the brain, reducing the perception of pain and triggering feelings of happiness and well-being.

As a result, exercise promotes a sense of calmness and helps to alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety.

These biochemicals are so effective that some doctors recommend trying out an exercise program before turning to medications.

A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Associates (JAMA) investigated the effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sufferers

The researchers found that individuals who engaged in regular aerobic exercise experienced significant reductions in anxiety levels compared to those who did not exercise. The study highlighted the positive impact of exercise on anxiety management.

Improved Mood & Self-Confidence

Exercise has been shown to enhance mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Physical activity stimulates the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which are involved in regulating mood. 

Serotonin, in particular, is often referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter since it contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being.

An analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews examined the effects of using exercise for depression. The analysis included 35 clinical trials involving over 2,300 participants. 

The findings indicated that exercise, whether performed alone or as part of a treatment program, reduced symptoms of depression. The study emphasized the importance of exercise as an effective tool for the treatment of depression.

Not to be ignored is the effect that self-confidence can have on a person’s mental health. Low self-esteem reduces a person’s life quality, leading them along a jagged path of self-criticism, sadness, anger, shame, or guilt.

However, observing the gradual changes that regular workouts bring to your body can start to stem the tide of overwhelming feelings. You begin to develop self-confidence instead of self-criticism, which directly impacts your mental health.

This is especially true when you participate in group exercises. Sharing with like-minded people in workout classes can help you achieve more than you possibly could alone. 

A group atmosphere helps you push yourself further, reach milestones, and keep your commitment level high.

Better Cognition

Regular exercise has been linked to improved cognitive function, including better memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. 

Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which provides it with oxygen and nutrients necessary for optimal functioning. 

Exercise also promotes the release of growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a key role in the growth and maintenance of neurons.

A review published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience examined the relationship between exercise and cognitive function in children and teens. 

The review concluded that physical activity is a lifestyle choice that positively influences cognitive abilities, including attention, memory, and academic performance.

This is especially true in more developed countries that may promote sedentary lifestyles. The findings emphasized the potential of exercise to support cognitive development.

People of all ages benefit from higher activity levels. Seniors strive to maintain healthy thinking ability and introducing regular and moderate exercise is one pathway to preventing cognitive decline and memory loss.

Physical activity can also boost creativity and mental energy. So, inspiration for overcoming a problem may just be one workout away!

Better Sleep

Exercise can contribute to better sleep, which is vital for mental health. Physical activity promotes a healthy sleep-wake cycle by regulating circadian rhythms, our built-in alarm clocks, and reducing insomnia symptoms.

Sleep experts recommend not exercising close to bedtime. But regular exercise earlier in the day can help alleviate sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

A study published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry investigated the effects of exercise on sleep quality in adolescents. 

The participants engaged in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and found that exercise significantly improved sleep quality, reduced the time taken to fall asleep, and increased the duration of deep sleep. 

This research highlighted the potential of exercise as a non-pharmacological approach to improving sleep and mental well-being.

Weight Loss, Energy Gain

Many people wish they could shed some pounds. Calorie reduction alone is a difficult uphill climb for most. Backsliding is common before results can be seen.

But regular exercise plays a crucial role in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Physical activity helps to burn calories, build muscle, and improve metabolism, which can contribute to weight loss or weight maintenance. 

Furthermore, engaging in exercise can lead to increased energy levels, as it boosts the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs, improving overall stamina and vitality.

A study published by ScienceDirect examined the evidence on the effects of exercise on weight management

The review included 224 studies and concluded that exercise in conjunction with dietary restriction was effective in reducing body weight and preventing weight gain.

The study emphasized the importance of exercise as a key component of weight management strategies. Read this blog post to learn more about how diet and exercise work together to help you achieve your weight loss goals.

Chronic Illness Prevention

Consistent exercise has been associated with a lower risk of developing chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. 

These conditions can have a significant impact on mental health, and by reducing the risk through regular exercise, individuals can protect their overall well-being.

People who exercise regularly have a better health outlook because of the effects of exercise on the body. Physiologically, exercise helps to reduce blood pressure, systemic inflammation, and blood viscosity.

A routine of physical activity can improve insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial density, and the function of cells that line blood vessels. This means the base risk factors often leading to serious health issues are improved.

A comprehensive review published in the journal Circulation Research examined the relationship between physical activity and the prevention of cardiovascular disease

The review encompassed data from multiple studies and concluded that regular exercise was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and the following disorders:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Depression
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

The study emphasized the importance of physical activity as a primary prevention strategy.


In conclusion, exercise offers a wide range of benefits. It can bring you closer to your ideal fitness goal, trim your waistline, and help you build lean muscle. But more than the physical, a routine of exercise can give you better mental health. 

Exercise improves mental health by leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety. Biochemicals are released in the brain to improve mental outlook and provide a sense of well-being with exercise.

Physical activity stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and other neurotransmitters, improving mood, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Group exercise can also lead to a sense of community and belonging.

Regular workouts also enhance cognitive function, memory, and academic performance by improving blood flow to the brain.

An exercise regimen promotes better sleep, aids in weight management, and helps prevent chronic illnesses which can lead to better mental well-being without the use of costly medications.

As we have seen, exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining and improving mental well-being, not just the size of your muscles. 

Scientific studies support these findings, highlighting the significant impact of exercise on mental health. 

Therefore, incorporating regular physical activity into our lives can be an important step towards a healthier mind and a healthier life.

By Robert Fisher

Robert C. Fisher is a professional SEO writing consultant who can help you and your business thrive in the online market. With years of experience, he offers a variety of writing services, including content creation, blog writing, creative writing, career writing, SEO optimization, and SMM.

As a Registered Nurse with a Master's degree in Nursing and an MBA in Healthcare Management, Robert is well-versed in healthcare, nutrition, medicine, fitness, wellness, and other related topics. His professional background makes him a valuable resource for those looking to create content in these areas.

Robert is the owner and operator of Top Content Consulting (https://www.topcontentconsulting.com/), a business that offers optimization and SEO strategies. He is passionate about providing high-quality writing services that increase business visibility, influence, and credibility online. His goal is to help his clients succeed by providing them with the knowledge and expertise they need to succeed in their respective industries.