Exercise and Mental Health

by Hailey Byrne | March 2024

Many people talk about the importance of self care practices in mental health. When you hear the term self-care, you may think of activities such as taking a bath or getting a massage rather than exercise. However, exercise can be one consistent and helpful way to integrate self care into your routine. Physical activity not only benefits our bodies but also has a profound impact on our mental health, leading to a happier and healthier life. 


Exercise triggers the release of endorphins that interact with receptors in the brain, reducing the perception of pain and triggering positive feelings. In essence, exercise can act as a natural mood booster.


  1. Stress Reduction: When you exercise, your body’s stress response system is activated. This helps to reduce the production of stress hormones like cortisol. 
  2. Improved Sleep: Regular exercise can enhance the quality of your sleep, which is crucial for maintaining good mental health. 
  3. Increased Self-Esteem: Achieving fitness goals and sticking to a routine can boost your self-esteem. This sense of accomplishment can improve your mental outlook and confidence 
  4. Exercise for Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD: Exercise has been proven to decrease symptoms of many mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD
  5. Brain Health: Exercise is also beneficial for cognitive function and memory. It increases blood flow to the brain, promotes the growth of new neurons, and enhances brain connectivity.

Finding the Right Fit: The great thing about exercise is that there are endless ways to incorporate it into your life. The key is to find an activity you enjoy, as you’re more likely to stick with it. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Aerobic Exercise: Activities like walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming to get your heart rate up and release endorphins.
  2. Yoga and Pilates: These mind-body practices combine physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to reduce stress and improve mental clarity.
  3. Strength Training: Building muscle not only benefits your physical health but also provides a sense of achievement and self-confidence.
  4. Team Sports: Engaging in team sports can provide social interaction and a sense of community. 

Incorporating Exercise into Your Routine: To experience the mental health benefits of exercise, consistency is key. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Set Realistic Goals: Start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. Maybe start by trying to move your body for 10 minutes a day.
  2. Create a Schedule: Dedicate specific times for exercise in your weekly routine to make it a habit.
  3. Get Support: Exercise with a friend or join a fitness class to stay motivated.
  4. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. Rest when needed, and don’t push yourself too hard.
  5. Mix It Up: Variety keeps things interesting. Try different types of exercise to prevent boredom and to find what fits into your schedule. 



Robinson, L. (2023, February 28). The mental health benefits of exercise. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm