Exercise and Mental Health



Exercise and mental health is extremely important. While you exercise your body releases endorphins and serotonin, which makes you feel better. Exercise prevents and treats depression, anxiety, and ADHD.


Mental health impacts our community in a huge way. Approximately 38% of family physician visits are related to these issues. I’m going to cover how exercise benefits mental health, both from a prevention and treatment point of you. I am going to run through aspects of mental health that are benefited from exercise, and the mechanism that this works. I’m going to give ways to start doing this with a busy schedule and if you’re not used to regular exercise.


It is well known that regular exercise is good for your physical health. It increases aerobic capacity, muscle size, decreases our waist size, and helps us live longer. Exercise also has profound mental benefits. When we exercise our bodies release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood and make you feel better. Exercise takes your mind off your worries. It distracts you so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.


Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise decreases depression, anxiety, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Studies have actually shown that regular exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. Of course all without the side effects!

Exercising regularly makes you smarter. Studies have shown that students that regularly exercise do better academically than those that do not.

Mental Health Prevention through Exercise

People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. This is also due to the circulating endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and other chemicals that naturally occur from exercise.

How do You do it?

You do not have to be a fitness fanatic or belong to a gym to reap the mental benefits of exercise. These recommendations apply to everyone no matter your size, sex, weight, athletic ability, or financial status.

Prior to starting an exercise program you should consult with your physician to make sure it is safe to do it.

Ideally, you can do 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 3-5 times per week in order to maximize the benefits. The 30 minutes may be broken down to 30 minutes at a time, 15 minutes twice a day, or 10 minutes three times a day. Moderate intensity means getting your heart rate up and your breathing harder, but not straining hard or becoming exhausted and out of breath. You should be able to hold a conversation while exercising at this intensity.


However, if you do not exercise at all, you probably shouldn’t try to do this much. Most likely, you will not be able to finish and you may feel defeated and this could make you feel even worse. It is better to start very small and progressively work up to this schedule. For example, to start you could go for a two minute walk or bike ride 2-3 times per week and progress from there. Even the busiest of schedules or people unaccustomed to exercise can do this.


In order to get maximum benefit when you exercise, try to pay attention to your body instead of zoning out. What I mean by this is carefully notice how your feet hit the ground when you’re walking or running or the rhythm of your breathing as you’re exercising. Adding this mindfulness element will improve your condition faster and get rid of any negative thoughts, which is very helpful to your mental state.


To summarize, exercise promotes circulating endorphins which make you feel good. Exercise can be helpful both in preventing and treating depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice. You should contact your physician with any questions or medical concerns.


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