Mental Health and Exercise


Does a healthier body pave the way for a healthier mind?

We choose to work out for lots of different reasons. To feel stronger, to feel healthier, and, if we are being really honest with ourselves, looking good is a pretty big motivating factor! But what about the connection between mental and emotional health? Is working up a sweat on the mat as good for our brain as it is for our abs? The answer is a cautious, yes. Cautious because even though research has shown a strong link between mental wellbeing and exercise, everyone is different and mental health issues are diverse. Exercising shouldn’t be a reason to skip your GP visit if you are suffering from intrusive symptoms, but it could help to make you a happier and healthier person overall.

I have taken a closer look at how exercise can impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing, below.

Exercise Changes Your Brain Chemistry

It turns out runners high is real. When you exercise you put your body under stress and your brain takes steps to fight the stress that your body is feeling. One of these destressing tactics is the release of  BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This less-than-catchily-named chemical helps to protect and repair neurons and is thought to be responsible for that clear, calm feeling you get after a workout. Your brain also releases endorphins, the anti-stress hormones which provide a boost in mood. In short, you aren’t imagining it, exercise genuinely does make you feel good.

Research Supports The Benefits of Exercise


It’s not just anecdotal evidence that supports the positive impact of working out on mental health, it’s scientific research. Regular exercise has been shown to significantly reduce the likelihood of suffering depression. Other studies have shown a similarly positive effect on anxiety.

Working Out Provides Head Space


In a world where we are constantly bombarded by images and information (we all carry a supercomputer in our pockets for goodness sake), it can be tough to find time to just be. This permanent connectivity can cause our stress levels to spike. Exercise is a great excuse to switch off and log out – providing us all with time to find our balance.

How Often Should I Exercise To Feel The Brain Benefits?


As little as 15 minutes of exercise a day can have a positive effect on your mental health, so start small. You don’t need to be a marathon runner or Olympic weight lifter to feel the benefits so commit to a reasonable but slightly challenging (for you) amount of activity to hit on a daily or weekly basis. You will be surprised just how quickly you can build on it!

I encourage everyone, at every age and every fitness level to try and be more active. Not so that you can show off a six-pack or fit into a certain size of clothes (although these are perfectly fine goals) but to feel great in yourself. It really does feel good to get moving and that feeling makes every part of your life better. If you want to unlock the good vibes in a fun and friendly environment, FitFusion PT can help. Hit up one of our group sessions or book someone on one time to get started. Until next week, stay amazing.