The Benefits of Regular Exercise on Mental Health


Depression is an incredibly common illness. In fact, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally. Unfortunately, treatment can be costly, comes with side-effects, and may or may not be helpful. 

Lifestyle modifications can be a cost-effective way to improve mental health and overall quality of life. The exercises we’ll explore in this article can be particularly beneficial for individuals with mental illness. 

Regular exercise can improve mental health.

According to a study, aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Working out might not eliminate the need for medication entirely, but incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine can minimize the overall lifestyle impacts and improve quality of life.

Additionally, exercise can provide similar benefits to antidepressants, without the risk of adverse effects. In fact, a study by Harvard found that introducing 15 minutes of exercise each day leads to a 26% decrease in odds of becoming depressed. While exercise likely will not eliminate the need for medication altogether for all individuals, it is a legitimate complementary addition and can be a distraction to prevent relapse.

Exercise can be the perfect backdrop for increasing mindfulness.

For some, sitting down and meditating can be flat out boring. Instead of trying really hard to clear your mind (which is actually harder than it sounds!), try introducing mindfulness into your exercise routine.

When you’re running, focus on how your feet hit the ground. The pattern of your sneakers on asphalt and how it feels with each step. If you’re stretching, focus on your breathing. Really think about each and every inhale. Focus on how exercising makes you feel physically, and the mindset that it puts you in.

light outdoor exercise

Exercise aids self-esteem.

Regularly investing in yourself can boost your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Exercise is a great way to take care of your body and see what new limits you can push yourself to. 

Especially after quarantine, many are more self-conscious of their bodies after experiencing weight gain. When you start feeling bad about your body, it’s easy to eat even more in an attempt to comfort yourself. Furthermore, there isn’t a whole lot to do right now while social distancing regulations are in place. Exercise can be an effective way to combat weight gain and invest in yourself.

Exercise breaks an otherwise never-ending cycle.

A 2019 Gallup poll found that Americans are among the most stressed. It’s no surprise that many of us are likely even more stressed now given current events. COVID-19 fear is still on high-alert, tensions are rising as worldly events unfurl with seemingly no end in sight. It’s hard to keep up! On top of that, we don’t have our normal stress-relief activities: shopping, dining out, and visiting bars is seemingly impossible due to the pandemic.

When your body is stressed, a few things happen: 

  • Your muscles get tense
  • It’s harder to fall asleep at night
  • You may experience diarrhea

In response to all of the above, many of us get more stressed out, leading to a never-ending stress cycle. Exercise can help you break out of that cycle, instead of getting trapped.

Explore how you can introduce light physical activity throughout your day and start reaping the benefits. Want more fitness tips and tutorials? Subscribe to our newsletter!
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