The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Regular exercise is the doctor’s prescription to various bodily ailments. It can combat chronic hypertension and reduce the risk of heart-related diseases. It has so many benefits for our physical wellbeing that health professionals advise that it should be a regular part of our daily routine. However, it doesn’t stop there. Exercising regularly also boosts our mental wellbeing in a variety of ways. Just like patients with chronic diseases, doctors also advise regular exercise for people with mental health problems.

This article will discuss why exercising regularly is an important aspect of promoting mental health.

Discipline and Mental Toughness

Exercising regularly helps us with our discipline and mental fortitude. When you start getting into the habit of exercising it is normal to hit mental roadblocks. It becomes more and more difficult to find motivation to continue being physically active. In our article ‘Having Problems With Staying Motivated’, we suggested examining the consequences of not being motivated, and how that can inspire you to change your habits. We also looked at how exercise reinforces our mental strength to push forward despite our body telling us otherwise. It also helps us become more disciplined to finish what we set out to do. This discipline and mental toughness that we get from exercise is likely to reflect on how we deal with other aspects of our life as well.

Brain Growth

Scientific American reports that exercise increases brain growth, making it “easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.” Exercising releases hormones that promote an excellent environment for the growth of new brain cells, no matter the person’s age. Studies have found that an increase in exercise can be linked to preventing age-related shrinking of the brain, making you less likely to experience cognitive deterioration. For the elderly, regular exercise can be the key against fighting dementia and other related mental diseases.

Combatting Stress and Anxiety

Exercise has also been proven to help people facing depression, anxiety, and stress. Exploring Your Mind notes that exercise and sports help release a lot of pent up emotional tension. Moreover, physical activity aids in the reabsorption process of cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. In times of anxiety, fear, or emotional distress, our body produces much more cortisol. When we exercise, we’re helping our body process this hormone, which eventually leads to our stress and anxiety levels going down.

Confidence and Self-Esteem

Regular exercise also leads to an increase in confidence and self-esteem. When we exercise regularly, we see changes in our body that are the results of our own discipline and practice. Nicole Dossantos writing for The Active Times gave her readers some advice: “if your goal is to lose weight, once you start seeing results, you are likely to feel more confident.” This confidence can be carried over to different aspects of our lives. Exercise can help us feel more confident at nailing a presentation at work or hosting an office event. We feel like we can accomplish more with our bodies once we put our mind to it.


Another benefit of regular exercise is it boosts your creativity and problem solving skills. Research by Stanford University has found that physical activity can boost your creativity by up to 60%. Activities like walking boost your “creative ideation” skills and opens up your mind to new ideas. If you’re stuck in a rut waiting for a new idea or solution, a good technique is to don your rubber shoes and hit the pavement.


Physical activity can also help us with learning. The Conversation looked into studies that link exercise with improved cognitive function. One study found that the level of cognitive function of elementary school students increased after only 20 minutes of walking. These students were able to improve their attention span and do better in academic tests. Maryville University describes how the need to understand the connection between learning ability and mental health is becoming increasingly in demand in educational institutes. This research is being used to improve how students are taught, and has led to a demand for more physical education lessons in school. USA Today reports that in a school of 500 pupils, US public schools only pay $1.50 per child for physical education. The total annual expenditures per pupil for public schools often exceeds $12,000, showing the gap between what is required and the reality of the situation.

Unexpected Mental Health Benefits of Exercising

While we lump together the benefits of physical activity, studies show that there are actually activities that are more beneficial to our mental health than others. The top three activities that benefit mental health the most are team sports, cycling and gym exercises. Mindfulness exercises like yoga and tai chi also result in better mental health. Time Magazine also found that people who exercise for a moderate amount of time see better mental health results than those who do marathon workouts. Knowing this information helps us optimize our exercises to better affect our mental wellbeing. Ultimately however, it’s good to remember that any form of physical activity is better for our mental health than no physical activity at all.

This article was written for

By Clara Michelle