Benefit of exercise to mental health

Before I go into the benefit of exercise to mental health I’m going to start off this article by saying if you are struggling with your mental health right now and need help please reach out to someone. A friend, family member, doctor, neighbour, colleague or Bob that you sometimes see walking the dog. Even me, feel free to e-mail me at Your e-mail won’t go to some empty inbox that never gets looked at, it goes right to my phone so I will reply. If you’re at your limit and you need help right now take yourself down to your nearest A&E, or ask someone to take you.

There are some resources at the end of this article for getting help with your mental health, so scroll right to the end for some useful contacts.

Advice from a radio DJ

Not so long ago I was listening to BBC radio 1’s dance anthems with Mista Jam, he played a song by The Prodigy. Sadly the lead singer from The Prodigy took his own life in March 2019, so Mr Jam took some time to say something like if you’re struggling with your mental health please get help. And he said:

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”

Lots of radios

I’ve always remembered that because it’s so true. Whatever you’re going through it can and will get better, but suicide is not the answer. I’m not saying exercising is either but it could help, even just a little. Maybe by the end of the article you might be thinking there is a benefit of exercise to mental health.

What is mental health

How are you really? sign on side of building

Mental health covers a broad spectrum of illnesses, disorders, and thoughts and feelings we have that we can’t even explain. The Oxford dictionary explains mental health as

“a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being”

Types of mental health disorders

This could range from mild stress, to anxiety and depression, to OCD, bipolar, eating disorders and insomnia.

For most of us, we’ve suffered from stress and anxiety at some point in our lives. If you haven’t, well done you and can I have the secret to your success!?

Man sitting with hands on head looking stressed

1 in 6 adults experiences a common mental health problem, like as anxiety or depression and 1 in 5 adults has considered taking their own life at some point.

It’s exercise that can help with the milder mental health problems like stress and anxiety. If you’re really suffering with your mental health or you think you have a more serious condition please go and talk to your doctor right now.

Benefit of exercise to mental health

In this section I’ll be going through the many benefits of exercise to mental health.

First a bit about physical health

We already know that exercise is great for our physical health, but it’s also great for our mental health as well. If you’re looking to integrate some exercise into your routine have a look at these articles:

Walking workouts to lose weight

How to lose belly fat with weights

What are the best resistance bands to buy

Lady with hands on top of head looking relaxed on a sunny day

By making our bodies feel good we can also make our minds feel good as well. If you’re stressed your body and muscles are likely to be very tense. You could be feeling tension in your face, your neck or anywhere in your body. This could cause headaches and leave you feeling more stressed, not great for your mental health. The more stressed you feel the more tense you get adding more stress to your life. Exercising leaves your muscles and body more relaxed which relieves the tension in your body, this in turn helps you to feel less stressed.

Mental health benefits of exercise


  • Releives the symptoms of mild to moderate depression
  • Gives you a sense of well-being
  • Better sleep at night
  • Feel more positive and relaxed
  • Releives stress
  • Improves your memory
  • Boosts your overall mood
  • Improve memory
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Improves alertness and concentration

Why is exercise good for mental health?

So, we now know the benefits of exercise to mental health but you may be wondering WHY? Why is exercise good for mental health? This is what I’ll explain in this section.

Hormone release

Exercise produces endorphins, these act as natural painkillers and help us sleep better which in turn reduces stress. Our brains also release serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline which are all feel good hormones. This is why we feel good after we’ve exercised. Feeling good = Feeling less stressed.

Improved sleep

puppy asleep on the floor

Exercie wears us out and makes us feel tired, right? If you get the timing right with your exercise it will leave you feeling sleepy when it’s time to go to bed. The better night’s sleep you get the better you’ll feel. Good sleep = Less stress. Just be sure to workout at the right time. Exercising right before you go to bed is likely to leave you feeling awake as you’ll be buzzing from your workout. If you can it’s better to exercise in the morning or afternoon to give your body time to wind down after.

More social

I often feel better after a good rant. Exercising with someone who you can talk to and confide in could help you feel less stressed. As the saying goes a problem shared is a problem halved.

Wooden people huddling together

Team sports are a great way to make new friends and get more social. You might find someone who’s going through something similar to you that you can talk to if you’re struggling with your mental health. And it goes both ways, maybe you can help someone who’s having a particularly tough time. Helping people can give us a great sense of well-being which is great for our mental health. This might not be possible in the current covid-19 pandemic but it’s something to consider if we ever get out of lockdown!

Get green for your mental health

One study showed that just five minutes in a green area like a park or garden can improve your mood. Activities such as walking, gardening, cycling or farming can boost your self esteem. It was green areas with water that had the most positive effect on mood.

People sitting in a park

So, if you have a park with a pond or lake in it get down there for some exercise. Even 5 minutes can have a positive effect on your mood. Think of all those hormones being released!

Best exercises for mental health

There isn’t one exercise that’s better for mental health. ANY exercise you can do will improve your mental health. Whether you’re just starting out and can only manage 5 minutes of walking to if you’ve been exercising for a while and you like to go for an hour’s run every day. It doesn’t matter, anything you can do will help. These are just some examples:


Lady with backpack on walking down a path with lots of fallen autumnal leaves

If you’re starting with 5 minutes of walking at a time try to do this two or three times a day. Then build up to a longer walk. For some walking workouts for all fitness levels have a look here.


Benefits of exercise to mental health - Person doing front crawl in a laned swimming pool

You could try swimming. Swimming is great if you want a low impact activity, you don’t realise how hot you’re getting and how hard you’re working because you can’t see or feel yourself sweating. It will still get your heart rate up.


Benefit of exercise to mental health - person digging holes to put plants in

Gardening can be a great way to exercise, especially if you have a big garden! Mowing the lawn, trimming your hedge, weeding. These will all increase your heart rate giving all the benefits talked about earlier on in the article.

Group sports

Sometimes you don’t notice how hard you’re working or how far you’ve gone if you’re talking to the person next to you, or having so much fun playing the sport you love. For example I love playing squash and squash is a pretty intense exercise. I don’t really notice how hard I’m working though as I’m loving playing it and I’m thinking so much about beating my opponent (usually my wife).

The benefit of exercise to mental health is… saving!

Someone standing by a smilie face drawn on the ground


Exercise can be used to stop mental health problems spiraling out of control. Don’t let it get to the point where you want to take your own life, take action today to improve your mental health. I’m not saying exercise will solve all your problems but it could at the very least alleviate the symptoms of stress and depression.




As I said at the beginning of the article if you’re struggling with your mental health please get in contact with someone who can help you. You can e-mail me at and I will reply. You can also try some of the following resources:


Call the Samaritans for free on 116 123


Call the National Suicide prevention lifeline on 800-273-8255

Thanks for reading folks. I hope you enjoyed this article and I hope I’ve helped in some way if you are struggling with your mental health. Has exercise helped with your mental health? Do you know someone who has benefited from exercising for their mental health? Let me know by commenting below and remember you can always reach out to me directly at I will reply.

Bye for now


4 thoughts on “Benefit of exercise to mental health

  • Maureen
    November 26, 2020 at 10:45 pm

    Hello there!, first of all I like the definition of mental health which says that Mental health covers a broad spectrum of illnesses, disorders, and thoughts and feelings we have that we can’t even explain. The Oxford dictionary explains mental health as“a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. We need to do exercise to keep the mental health sane!, it helps the mind to rest well.

    • Katie
      November 30, 2020 at 11:11 pm

      Hi Maureen thanks for commenting. I’m glad you found the article useful.


  • Cynthia
    November 26, 2020 at 10:51 pm

    Hi Katie. Mental health is a big preocupation these days. It can be hard for some people to get some excercise of even some fresh air as the lockdown is back on the table. There were some days I didn’t want to go out at all, or I wanted to stay in bed all day. But there were some times that I would actually just getting moving a bit, even if it was walking still in my room (when you stay on the same spot but move like you are walking) for a few minutes it was helpful to clear my mind. I know some people need more help than others and I want to thank you for offering people to email you if they need it.


    • Katie
      November 30, 2020 at 11:10 pm

      Hi Cynthia thank you for reading the article and for commenting. I’m glad to hear you’re moving around a bit, even if it is just around your room it’s doing something. And something is always better than nothing!

      All the best


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