5 Mental Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

Oct 19, 2016
Tagged with: 5 Mental Health Benefits of Regular Exercise


Mental illness is extremely common, and can manifest itself in many different ways. Unfortunately, not everyone gets the help they need to stay healthy—60% of American adults do not receive treatment for mental illness, even after diagnosis. With the stigma associated with mental illness, some are afraid to seek diagnosis and treatment. Treatment can also be expensive, or cause unwanted side effects that can be worse than the illness itself, and our ability to treat and eliminate mental illness is still limited. Though it cannot solve all the problems associated with mental illness or addiction, exercise can be a tool for people struggling with these issues, as it has numerous benefits and is completely free and accessible. It’s also a great tool for people who are often stressed, anxious, or have trouble relaxing. Here are just 5 of the many reasons exercise can have a positive impact on mental health:

1. Positive Influences Neurotransmitters

Many people take medication for mental illness diagnoses like depression or anxiety. These drugs affect the neurotransmitters in the brain, elevating levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, reducing the impact of mental illness. Exercise can boost these neurotransmitters, improving mood and reducing the severity of symptoms for some people, whether or not medication is already being used. Some people in recovery from addiction also find that exercise is an important part of the process, as dopamine can reduce the desire for drugs or alcohol.

2. Improves Self-Esteem

Consistent exercise over time promotes strength and often weight loss, benefits which can positively influence feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence. Goal-setting can help enhance this benefit, as meeting fitness milestones will result in feelings of accomplishment. Starting small is essential to boosting self-esteem, however—some people start with overly ambitious plans and either become discouraged or wind up with injuries, both of which can be major setbacks.

3. Increases Relaxation and Improves Sleep

Anyone who has struggled with insomnia or other sleep problems can probably benefit from adopting a regular exercise program. Even short periods of activity or moderate exercises can help to regulate sleep patterns, and help people fall asleep more quickly. Exercise at night, however, can cause trouble sleeping, and should be avoided for regulating sleep.

4. Reduces Stress

Whether or not mental illness is a factor, stress affects everyone. The neurotransmitters that can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety help to relieve stress as well. Whether it’s related to a tough workday or tension from anxiety, heading to gym can be a great way to blow off some steam, reset, and forget about the stresses of the day.

5. Provides a Distraction

Distraction from thinking about stressful problems can be essential to coming up with solutions, resetting, and calming down. When people are focused on exercise, they are much less likely to think about what is going on in their professional and personal lives—partly because it’s hard work! Exercising indoors can provide needed distractions, but the benefits are even greater when exercise is taken outdoors, whether that means biking, hiking, cycling, or another outdoor activity.

Mental illness can affect everyone, even children. To find out more about mental illness, check out these resources:

Addressing Children’s Mental Health

Mental Health Services Locator

Supporting a Family Member with Serious Mental Illness

Author: Sarah Daren

  • billaasskumar

    Yes, you are right. Health is very important thing for us and we have to maintain our and our dear ones’ health properly. We can easily maintain our health, but most of us don’t want to do any extra effort. After reading the health news which you have mentioned in your article I can say that it is very interesting as well as inspiring. I also read about healthcare news over this website and it is very helpful to that person who is unaware about health importance.

  • ranssaptik

    I think it’s a great piece of information and I am also agree with you that health is very important thing for all of us. Generally people do not focus on their health and they do not take their health as a priority because of stressful life. The points you have made in this article about mental health are very logical. Today’s generation has very busy life and I think they should follow some points of public health news which you have mentioned in your article. This would be helpful for them to maintain their health.