Exercise and Mental Health

First of all, I'm going to be straight up, everything I say in this blog is advice and my own thoughts. I have been lucky to do a few courses and quite a lot of studying through work around mental health...BUT...everyone is different. No two people have the same mental health and I appreciate and always listen to what people have to say. The stuff I am about to go through may not be as easy as it seems, and I fully understand that. I would also appreciate any feedback from anyone to help me further understand mental health and the effects it has to stop people participating in physical exercise.

What is mental health? 

Mental health, this pops up and everyone thinks of depression and anxiety. However, the scope of mental health is HUGE!! We all have it, and it can and most likely will change throughout our lives.

Through good times it can be positive and healthy, through bad times it can be negative and make life very tough. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that live with negative mental health every day and struggle to find a way to beat it.

There are many ways to try and combat the negative side of things and the one I would like to discuss is exercise. It doesn't work for everyone, but for those it does work for, it has changed their lives forever!

How does exercise affect our mental health?

Many studies have shown that exercise is something that has a massive impact on our state of mental health. This tends to happen mainly through the release of feel-good brain chemicals including endorphins (the happy hormone as most know it). These natural brain chemicals can enhance your sense of well being and reduce anxiety and depression. 

Psychologically, exercise improves confidence and this can have a very positive impact on our state of mind. It also allows for social interaction and offers an outlet to manage negative mental health in a very healthy way.

So is it time to join the gym? 

No it isn't, unless you want to? Then yeah maybe you should. But it certainly isn't necessary. Exercise can come in many forms and in my opinion, it's about finding what is right for you. Something that you get joy from and actually enjoy doing. This could be walking, running, a team sport, dancing in your kitchen or playing with your kids in the garden. All of this is exercise and all of these have the same positive effect on our mental health.

Personally, I like to pick up heavy things and put them back down (otherwise known as lifting weights). I look forward to every session! Mainly because of the feeling after when my confidence is up and I feel good about myself with the rush of endorphins. Nothing else gets me like weightlifting does and I will do this for the rest of my life.

So what else does exercise do to help with mental health? 

Exercising regularly improves our sleeping. The better we sleep, the better our frame of mind.  This again has many studies surrounding it for evidence but if you have done some exercise before I almost guarantee you've slept better for it.

Weight loss and all around health benefits. Losing weight boosts confidence, reduces risks of diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular problems therefore allows us to live longer. All of these take stress and anxiety away from our lives when we control them. 

And finally there is the social side of things where you talk to new people and find common ground. Some people take up group exercise, a team activity or a planned event and this gives them something to look forward to on a scheduled and structured basis allowing a positive event to be in their lives regularly. 


As with anything in life there can be barriers, and for those with negative mental health there tend to be a few. From what I have seen and learned from people I have worked with, there are two main sorts; 

1- Fear or anxiety. Actually taking the first step to start a new routine. This can occur through fear of what others think, not wanting to feel silly, fear of not having any level of fitness and fear of failure. All of these can heighten anxiety so a vicious circle starts and nothing ever changes. The best advice I can give here, is to start doing something with someone you know and trust. Ask for help and support, you might be surprised at how much people would like to help. 

2- Depression. This can be a bottomless pit and just makes it so so hard to start anything or believe that anything can help. I'll be completely honest here, some days you're up for it and some days you aren't. But once you get going, slowly over time, you'll find more days than not you're up for it.  Again, if you have someone that you trust and will support you, ask them to help. A 10 minute walk can be the difference.

One more thing to be cautious of is going extreme. For mental health, exercise is a natural drug, but as with all drugs it can be addictive and you can overdose. Make sure you're in control of how much you do alongside a healthy, balanced diet that reflects the amount of training you do.

Summary Points 

Exercise is scientifically proven to boost positive mental health and wellbeing. 

Find something you enjoy doing so you are more likely to look forward to it and stick at it. 

Ask someone close to support you and tag along. 

Give it time and be patient with yourself. 

Dont over do it. 

If you would like to share your thoughts or experiences we would love to hear about them. Please get in touch :-) 

Thanks for reading!