Can exercise improve mental health?

When you think about exercise and training, surely the things that come to mind are six-packs, fitness, beach body, and weight-loss. Often people train solely to achieve aesthetic or physical endurance goals: to get to their ideal weight or size, to look good in a bikini, or to simply be fit. But exercise isn’t only about gaining muscle and improving your endurance, it can also have a positive effect on your mental health.

How is mental health related to exercise?

It has been proven by countless studies that exercise doesn’t only improve your physique, it also has a positive effect on your physical and psychological well-being, your sex life, can add years to your life span, and it can also help people struggling with anxiety and depression. People who exercise daily sleep better at night, feel more energetic, have better memory, and have a more positive outlook on life. Don’t move into the gym just yet—you can already reap all the benefits by exercising just 30 minutes three to five times a week.

What’s next?

Any physical activity will make a difference. Research suggests that age, the tools you use, and your fitness level doesn’t play a role in how much exercise can improve your mental health. Move your body in whatever way it feels good, but make sure to pay attention to your body instead of zoning out. No need to set extravagant goals—start small and do a little more each day. Make exercising fun! Move with your friends, involve your family, clean the house together, or dance to silly music. The most important thing is to keep moving.

Exercise and mental health disorders

While exercising is important for everyone, it is especially advised to people who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders. Running about 15 minutes once a day or taking a one-hour walk can reduce the risk of depression by 26%. It helps relieve stress, improves memory, and boosts your mood. Research shows exercise being as effective in treating mild to moderate depression as taking antidepressants—and without side-effects! How? It promotes positive changes in the brain, acts as a distraction when you feel down, breaks the negative cycle, and releases endorphins – a chemical in the brain which relieves stress and pain.