L & B Counseling

Want to be happier? Get moving.

The surprising effects of exercise: How physical activity can improve your mood and reduce stress

Sure, exercise has numerous benefits for your physical health, but it can also have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing. In recent years, there have been numerous studies conducted on the relationship between exercise and mental health.  In fact, according to a review of over 100 studies published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, regular exercise is associated with a 20-30% reduction in the risk of developing depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. This suggests that exercise may be a powerful tool for preventing and managing mental health conditions.

What are some ways exercise can help with your mental health?

  • Reduces stress: Exercise can help to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol. This can lead to a decrease in feelings of anxiety and stress.
  • Improves mood: Physical activity has been shown to increase the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Exercise can therefore help to improve mood and reduce feelings of depression.  Studies have shown that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety, with some research suggesting that it may be as effective as medication in some cases.
  • Increases self-esteem: Regular exercise can help to improve body image and increase feelings of self-worth. This can lead to an overall increase in self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Enhances cognitive function: Exercise has been shown to improve brain function and cognitive performance, including memory and problem-solving skills. In one recent study, researchers concluded that even among people who didn’t meet the activity guidelines, each hour of light-intensity physical activity and achieving 7,500 steps or more daily was associated with higher total brain volume. This was equivalent to approximately 1.4 to 2.2 years less brain aging.
  • Promotes better sleep: Regular exercise can help to regulate sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep. This is important because poor sleep is linked to a number of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Overall, the evidence suggests that exercise can have a significant impact on mental health, and it should be considered as a potential treatment or prevention strategy for mental health conditions.

Exercise is a simple yet powerful tool for improving mental health. Whether it’s going for a run, taking a yoga class, or simply going for a walk, the benefits of physical activity for your mental wellbeing are undeniable. So make sure to include exercise as a part of your self-care routine and see the positive effects it can have on your mental health. For most people, the goal of physical exercise should be to engage in vigorous physical activity three days per week for 20 minutes. Or, if high-intensity workouts don’t work for you because of health concerns or other reasons, you can aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity five days per week to get similar brain-boosting effects.