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Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

From decreased stress levels to higher self-esteem and confidence, exercise is as great for your brain as it is for your body. 

Physical activity can improve mental health and even alleviate symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. While the physical health benefits of exercise are well-publicized, the link between exercise and mental health is frequently overlooked. According to research, physical activity can help prevent mental health problems from developing. Exercise has also been shown in studies to improve the symptoms of many pre-existing mental illnesses.

How Can Physical Exercise Benefit Your Mental Health?

Mental health professionals sometimes prescribe exercise as a treatment for specific mental illnesses.

People who exercise regularly often do so because it makes them feel good. Exercise can help you improve your mood, concentration, and alertness. It can even help you have a more positive outlook on life.

The relationship between exercise and mental health is complex. Inactivity, for example, can be both a cause and a result of mental illness. However, there are numerous ways in which exercise can benefit your mental health, including:

Anxiety & Stress

Exercise reduces sensitivity to the body's anxiety response. A regular exercise program can also help alleviate the symptoms of other common co-occurring conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Exercise promotes the development of new neurons in critical areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus. Some research suggests that this may help with the symptoms of some psychiatric conditions, such as depression and anxiety. 

Another mental benefit of exercise is that it reduces stress, making us all happier. Increasing your heart rate can reverse stress-induced brain damage by increasing the production of neurohormones such as norepinephrine, improving cognition and mood, and clearing the fog of stressful events. Exercise also forces the central and sympathetic nervous systems of the body to communicate with one another, which improves the body's overall ability to respond to stress.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Exercise can help children with ADHD improve their motor skills and executive function. This appears to be true for moderate and vigorous exercise, and exercising for a more extended period may yield better results. Cardio seems to be especially beneficial for ADHD children and adults.


Whether light, moderate, or vigorous, exercise has been shown to reduce the severity of depression. Exercise may be as effective as other depression treatments. It's possible that regular exercise reduces inflammation, which benefits people with this condition.

Exercising for Your Mental Health

If regular exercise isn't already a part of your routine, you may be wondering how much more you could be doing to improve your mental health. 

The really good news is that exercise does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. According to studies, low to moderate-intensity exercise activities are sufficient to improve your mood and thinking patterns.

Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

It's even easier nowadays to hold yourself accountable by joining a gym, such as Fit4Life Movement, to learn more about starting your journey to improved mental health.

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