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7 Mental Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Regular exercise is a habit most commonly associated with the benefit of maintaining a healthy weight. However, it can also contribute to a healthier state of mind. Consistent exercise offers several mental health benefits that are worth familiarizing yourself with.

Below, you’ll find 7 examples of how regular exercise benefits mental health. Keep reading to learn more.

Reduces Anxiety and Depression

Studies show that consistent exercise can play a role in reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. Scientists suspect that this is caused by improvements in blood circulation to the brain that occurs through exercise.

The research also shows that intense exercise is not needed to achieve this benefit. An activity like walking or gardening can have a meaningful impact on symptoms of anxiety and depression.

That being said, exercise alone is not always a cure for mental health challenges like these. If you exercise consistently and still have difficult symptoms, you may be able to benefit from a service like BetterHelp online therapy, which provides an affordable way to work with a mental health expert on your schedule.

Promotes Healthy Self-Esteem

Regular exercise can also promote healthier feelings of self-esteem. There are a few reasons for this.

First, when you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, your body maintains a healthy weight. You also feel physically capable of completing tasks throughout the day without feeling out of breath and out of shape. This helps many people feel better about themselves.

Additionally, exercise promotes healthier blood circulation to the brain, which improves cognitive functioning. This makes it easier to complete tasks throughout the day and may help to boost self-esteem as well.

Improves Sleep, Which Helps Mental Health

Doctors are confident that regular exercise helps to improve sleep. It doesn’t just help people fall asleep faster, either. It also helps to improve the quality of sleep they get throughout the night.

This is beneficial for mental health because getting enough rest has numerous benefits, including:

  • Improving stamina throughout the day
  • Getting along with people better
  • Increasing cognitive function
  • Reducing stress

All of these benefits contribute to a healthier, happier state of mind. 

However, you should take care not to exercise too late, as doing so could actually decrease sleep quality. Doctors say that aerobic exercise should be completed at least 1-2 hours before going to sleep so that the endorphins released can wash out of the system before the person starts attempting to go to bed.

Increases Energy and Stamina

When a person is experiencing depression, energy is hard to come by. It can be challenging just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone complete the tasks of the day. That can create a negative spiral, which hurts self-esteem and feeds back into depression.

Exercise helps to interrupt this unwanted cycle. It increases energy and stamina, which helps people experiencing mental health challenges feel better throughout the day. This can lead to more tasks being completed and a corresponding uptick in self-esteem.

Provides Avenues for Socialization

Another underrated benefit of regular exercise for mental health is the opportunity that it provides for consistent socialization. Research shows that regular socialization helps to increase feelings of happiness and makes a person feel lighter. 

But it can be difficult to both find time for socialization and meet new people to socialize with. Exercise helps with each of these challenges.

For example, exercise can be a joint activity. You can invite a friend to go walking with you and get your socialization in that way. Or, if you’d like to meet new people to socialize with, you can sign up for an exercise class at a gym or find a hiking group online.

Socializing through exercise can be a powerful form of support for mental health because you’ll get the benefits of both exercising and socialization through a single activity. It’s a two-for-one that offers a time-efficient way to support your mental health.

Releases Stress

Built-up stress can have a major impact on our mood and overall sense of well-being. A person experiencing excessive stress may have problems with irritability, insomnia, and concentration – any one of which can contribute to mental health challenges.

Exercise helps to combat feelings of stress by releasing endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good chemicals. The result is that when we exercise, we feel less stressed out, and that promotes a healthier state of mind.

Reduces Risk of Physical Health Issues (And Negative Feelings Surrounding Them)

It’s also important to recognize that the physical health benefits offered by exercise can play a role in promoting mental health. When a person exercises regularly, they reduce their risk of many unwanted physical health issues, including:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Many types of cancer
  • And even dementia

People experiencing physical health issues like these often have mental health struggles because of them. If you exercise regularly, you’ll reduce the risk of that happening to you.

Getting Started With Exercise

Once you get into an exercise routine and start enjoying the benefits it offers, it becomes easier to be consistent. However, it can be tough to get started – especially when you’re dealing with mental health challenges that make you feel like avoiding exercise.

That’s why experts recommend starting slowly. You don’t have to immediately run a mile around your block. Start with a walk around the block instead – or even a walk to the end of the street. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and will be able to do a little more each day or week to gradually work up to your goals.

You can also be creative with the types of exercise that you do. Maybe going to the gym isn’t for you. You could have an impromptu dance party at home instead or get out in nature by going on a hike. When you do things you enjoy, it becomes much easier to be consistent about your exercise.

In Summary

There are many reasons to exercise regularly from a physical health standpoint. However, the mental health benefits of exercise can be profound as well. If you’re experiencing issues with depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem, exercise may be able to help.


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