The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Michelle Lossino, LCSW

Besides being an important part of weight loss, there are many mental health benefits of exercise.

  • Reduces stress.
  • Can assist in alleviating anxiety and depression; regulate mood.
  • Releases endorphins – which create feelings of happiness and euphoria.
  • Improves self-confidence and positive self-esteem.
  • Can assist in preventing cognitive decline – working out boosts chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus – a part of the brain that controls memory and learning.
  • Helps control food addictions – use as a distraction to deemphasize cravings and as a substitute for addictive behavior.
  • Increases relaxation and improves sleep quality.

One cheap and easy way to exercise is walking. Prior to beginning a walking routine, have a medical check-up or advice from medical provider. This is important especially if you have been inactive, not currently exercising, have high blood pressure or diabetes, feel dizzy or have chest pain when exerting yourself. Wear comfortable and loose fitting clothing, to allow yourself to move around. Start slow and pace yourself. For starters, 10-15 minutes is reasonable. Use the time to gather your thoughts and clear your mind.

It may sound easier said than done, especially if you are feeling tired, overwhelmed or too depressed to get moving. Changing your mindset to reap the mental benefits of exercise can be done the following ways:

  • Pick a time when your energy is the highest and engage in exercise you enjoy and feel comfortable with.
  • If you do not like exercising alone, make it a social activity.
  • To stay motivated, pick an activity you can commit to and set achievable goals and build from there.
  • Also, keep an activity log of what you are doing and for how long. Tracking your progress will show you how far you have come and help you avoid going off track.

After putting in the time and energy in burning those unwanted calories, reward yourself with a hot shower or bath.

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