How Physical Exercise Benefits Mental Health

Posted: February 13, 2020

There’s an urban myth that overweight people are happier. This is not necessarily true. Medical research proves that regular exercise contributes to improved mental health and general happiness. In this article, we will give you the many reasons of How Physical Exercise Benefits Mental Health!

You don’t need to work out like an Olympic gymnast to benefit from exercise. Regular moderate aerobic exercise can decrease depression, increase confidence, and boost self-esteem. 

The Medical Research

While the reasons exercise improves mental health are not fully comprehended, multiple extensive medical studies demonstrate a correlation. For example, the 2019 article Physical activity and depression: Towards understanding the antidepressant mechanisms of physical activity concludes this. That the phycological benefits of physical exercise are lasting and significant. And a 2011 scholarly article published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports asserts medical research shows exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Regular exercise permanently alters our brains in ways that better protect us from stress and depression. In a scholarly review of medical research articles published in The Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing in 2004, the author concluded that physical exercise can:

  • Reduce anxiety,
  • Reduce depression,
  • Reduce negative moods,
  • Improve self-esteem,
  • Improve cognitive functioning, and
  • Improve the quality of life of anyone suffering from schizophrenia.

Other scholars have added to this list:

  • Increased confidence,
  • Improved motivation through the attainment of set goals, 
  • Improved focus, and
  • Better sleep. 

How Much Exercise?

Over-exercising is bad for your health. Have you noticed how frequently professional athletes suffer from repetitive strain injuries? Even normal people who become fixated on physical exercise can suffer from conditions like bulimia because they’re concerned about their body’s size. Exercising too much is a form of addiction.

So, don’t exercise too much. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. Also, an influential article published in Sports Medicine in 1991 recommended 21 minutes of aerobic exercise daily to reduce anxiety and improve mental health.

The best way to avoid damaging your health is to join professionally organized exercise classes. A certified trainer will ensure you only perform exercises that benefit your health. An experienced coach will assess your current physical and mental condition and offer appropriate advice.

What Exercises Are Best?

Generally, low impact aerobic exercises will improve your physical and mental health. Low impact exercise does not place too much strain on your muscles and joints. However, you should also perform strength-building exercises at least three times a week.

Recently, many researchers have focused on mindful exercises. When physical exertion is linked to a focused mind, better results are achieved. For example, a 2013 medical study into the effects of mindful walking on psychologically distressed people discovered this. There was a significantly improved quality of life and reductions in psychological stress.


You may not have heard of kettlebells, but they’ve been used since the 19th century, and Harvard Medical School recommends them. The best thing about using kettlebells is that they combine a great cardio workout with strength training. 

Using kettlebells focuses on your balance and movements. This means you can perform mindful exercises while using kettlebells. You’ll see rapid results from a daily 30-minute exercise session using kettlebells. Especially if you join a class and benefit from expert coaching and group support.

Aerobic Exercise Equipment 

Cycling, jogging, and swimming are great exercises. However, sometimes you don’t have the time to get out and about. Also, you may have safety concerns with the possibility of accidents or unsavory people interfering in your activity. 

Pieces of stationary exercise equipment, such as a treadmill or a stationary cycle, provide an excellent aerobic exercise. You can perform these at home or in the gym. Such exercises place a minimum amount of stress on muscles and limbs. And if you’re short on time, having these pieces of equipment at home can be really convenient.


People have used yoga to combine exercise and meditation for centuries. Simple stretches and poses can improve your flexibility and state of mind. Plus, the only equipment you need is a mat and a yoga bolster.

The American Psychological Association advises people to use yoga to treat sleep disorders, hyperactivity, depression, and ADHD. The effectiveness of yoga against conditions like ADHD and depression has been proved by research conducted at Duke University

Tai Chi

It’s no surprise to see that the Chinese have developed an effective system of mindful exercise. Medical research in Massachusetts has demonstrated that regular practice of tai chi improves self-esteem and reduces depression, stress, and anxiety. Though it is technically a martial art, tai chi is a low impact and gentle exercise system that anyone can follow.


In controlled trials, Pilates has been proved to improve mental health. Pilates is a mindful exercise system that is recommended for reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.

Practitioners of Pilates follow six principles while exercising that are designed to maximize the benefit of exercising. These principles are breathing, precision, flow, center, control, and concentration. Pilates is a complex system of exercises, so you should join an expert-led class to gain maximum benefits. 

The Importance Of Rest

Exercising will not benefit you unless you set aside time to rest. You must have adequate sleep, or your mental health will suffer. A vigorous exercise routine means that you require more rest rather than less in order to recover. A change of activity can also be beneficial. 

Make A Start Now

Most benefits of exercise are not immediate. However, if you don’t exercise, you’ll never see those benefits. What you need right now is a plan of action. 

If you want to turn your life around, you must exercise. It’s best to perform around thirty minutes of aerobic exercises each day and strength training three times a week. Why not write out a schedule and slot it into your diary? The right decisions made today will benefit you physically and mentally for the rest of your life.

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