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Let's Get Moving- Mental Health & Exercise

There are many reasons why physical activity is good for your body – having a healthy heart and improving your joints and bones are just two, but did you know that physical activity is also beneficial for your mental health and well-being?

Mental health and physical health are closely connected. No kidding — what’s good for the body is often good for the mind. Knowing what you can do physically that has this effect for you will change your day and your life.

Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.

Physical activity has many well-established mental health benefits. These are published in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and include improved brain health and cognitive function (the ability to think, if you will), a reduced risk of anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and overall quality of life. Although not a cure-all, increasing physical activity directly contributes to improved mental health and better overall health and well-being.

Learning how to routinely manage stress and getting screened for depression are simply good prevention practices. Awareness is especially critical at this time of year when disruptions to healthy habits and choices can be more likely and more jarring. Shorter days and colder temperatures have a way of interrupting routines — as do the holidays, with both their joys and their stresses. When the plentiful sunshine and clear skies of temperate months give way to unpredictable weather, less daylight, and festive gatherings, it may happen unconsciously or seem natural to be distracted from being as physically active. However, that tendency is precisely why it’s so important that we are ever more mindful of our physical and emotional health — and how we can maintain both — during this time of year.

So, if you're noticing your anxiety levels beginning to rise, it might be a signal to jump back into a regular exercise routine to get your blood pumping and sweat the stress away. There are many exercise activities that can lead to these positive effects of your mental health. Here's a few fun and light exercises that can help relieve anxiety, depression, and many more mental health problems:

  1. Jogging

  2. Walking

  3. Yoga

  4. Dancing

  5. Biking

  6. Hiking

  7. Aerobic Exercises

  8. Landscaping

Every mental health professional would emphasize and reinforce to their clients the health benefits from regular exercise include the following:

  1. Improved sleep

  2. Increased interest in sex

  3. Better endurance

  4. Stress relief

  5. Improvement in mood

  6. Increased energy and stamina

  7. Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness

  8. Weight reduction

  9. Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness

Mental health service providers can thus provide effective, evidence-based physical activity interventions for individuals suffering from serious mental illness. Further studies should be done to understand the impact of combining such interventions with traditional mental health treatment including psychopharmacology and psychotherapy.

When you're living with a mental health problem, or supporting someone who is, having access to the right information and resources is vital. It takes a great deal of bravery and determination to reach out to a psychologist or counselor. Comprehensive Family Care has the help you need!


  • Callaghan P.. Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care? J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2004;11:476–483. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

  • Guszkowska M.. Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood [in Polish] Psychiatr Pol. 2004;38:611–620. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

  • Reed, P. (2021, December 15). Physical activity is good for the mind and the body. Physical Activity Is Good for the Mind and the Body - News & Events.

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