3 Important Mental Health Benefits of Physical Exercise

By: Vanessa Steffens

“Exercise gives people endorphins, and endorphins make people happy…”  – Elle Woods

Elle Wood said it best: exercise makes people happy. We know exercise has many physical health benefits, but there are also many mental health benefits of exercise. If you needed a few more reasons to get to the gym, take a walk, or sign up for that yoga class, consider these three mental health benefits of exercise.  

Decrease Anxiety and Depression

Let’s start by talking about those “feel good” endorphins. Endorphins are scientifically proven to improve your mood and decrease symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Many mental health professionals recommend trying exercise before going on medication for anxiety and depression because the evidence is so strong. You don’t have to sign up for CrossFit or a marathon to get the benefits, either. Even mild or low impact physical activity can activate these feelings of happiness and euphoria. Go for a bike ride. Try yoga or pilates.

Decrease Stress

Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress. Increasing your heart rate can help reverse stress-induced brain damage by releasing neurohormones, which not only improve cognition and mood but also improve clouded thinking from experiencing stressful events. Exercise makes your nervous systems communicate with each other more effectively, which improves the body’s ability to respond to stress. Feeling stressed? Take a jog, join a pick up basketball game, or check out that boxing studio down the street.

Increase Self-Esteem

Exercising regularly also improves your self-esteem. Losing weight and building or toning muscle can make anyone feel more confident in their own skin. You might notice that you are fitting into your clothes better or that you can climb up your apartment steps without getting out of breath. Even small physical changes can be enough to boost your confidence and self image.

Whether you go for a walk, do some yoga, or hit the gym, try committing to a routine and experience these mental health benefits of your workout.