What are the mental health benefits of exercise?

We’ve been told by everyone from our parents, school P.E. teachers and medical professionals about the benefits of doing exercise for our bodies, but we don’t always hear about the great benefits that exercise can have on our mental health too. Whilst shedding a few pounds by taking up a new activity might be a great mood booster in itself, there are other positive effects that exercise has for your mind too.

Mental health and exercise

Exercise to help with stress and anxiety

The act of doing something physical, whether it be going for a walk, lifting weights, running or yoga, releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol has a number of different functions within the body, such as helping to regulate blood sugar, metabolism and assist with memory formulation, however another great benefit is that it helps to manage stress levels in the body too.

As well as the more scientific explanation as to why exercise can help with stress and anxiety, there’s also the fact that doing exercise gives your brain something to focus on, making it a useful coping strategy if you are trying to overcome any racing thoughts.

Exercise to help with depression and boost your mood

Another way that exercise can benefit your mental health is by giving you a positive mood boost! If you’ve ever heard of the term ‘runners high’ this refers to the ‘feel good’ mood that many runners experience post exercise as a result of endorphins being released by the body. Of course, you don’t have to run to get that endorphin high. Any physical activity can help to get those feel-good chemicals pumping, improving your mood and giving you more energy.

If you suffer with depression, taking up some kind of regular exercise that you enjoy can be really beneficial to improving your mental health. Research shows that even 10 minutes of brisk walking a day can help to positively impact your mood.

Exercise to improve sleep

The amount and quality of sleep we get each night can massively affect our mood the next day. Our bodies use the time when we are asleep to repair and grow, as well as take care of important memory functions in the brain. For this reason, not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling drained and in a bad mood.

Thankfully, by incorporating a bit of exercise into your day, you will feel more tired at the end of the day and settle more easily into sleeping. This will help you to build a better routine with sleep over time.

Final thoughts

So, as you can see there are plenty of great reasons to start exercising to improve your mental wellbeing! If you are new to regular exercise try just easing into doing a few minutes a day and building up slowly over time. Don’t be afraid to try different activities too, not everyone will fall in love with running, but at the same time, yoga might not feel intense enough for everyone either.

If you are struggling with your mental health at all, it’s important to remember that there is help available and always someone who will listen. Mind has lots of great information and resources and can help if you need to reach out.