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  • Kate Hooper

Discover why exercise is great for your mental health.

Updated: Jan 25

Generally, we view physical health as the major beneficiary of exercise. But how often do you think about the mental health benefits exercising can have? I think of those days when I’m flat or feeling down but push myself to go out for a walk and instantly feel better. This is because aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing and even gardening, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.

When our mental health is struggling or impacted, setting a small goal like exercise can help you achieve a sense of self-mastery. Accomplishing that goal can lead to satisfaction and further motivation which are essential elements in maintaining good mental health.

Often attention is solely focused on our physical health and we neglect to take into consideration the need of our mental health. So let’s look at some of those key benefits:

1. Better Mood

A great by-product of exercise is improved sleep and we all know how detrimental lack of sleep is to our mood!

2. Improved Self Esteem

If we have a negative perception of ourselves our self-esteem is generally going to be lower. However, when we exercise our self-confidence increases. This is because when we exercise not only does it improve our fitness, it increases our awareness of physical capabilities and raises self-efficacy. We feel more in control and our confidence improves as we reach those goals.


3. Increases your overall cognitive functioning

After you exercise you tend to feel more focused, alert and more likely to complete that list of daily tasks. You will feel an increase in energy and have a reduction in tiredness which can increase mental alertness and overall efficiency.

4. Improved social skills

If you are exercising in a group or playing organised sport, physical activity can help you develop fundamental skills such as empathy and leadership. Sport also invites people to be part of a community, helping you get out and connect with others. This can be imperative when someone is struggling with isolation or loneliness.

5. Reduces symptoms of anxiety and responses to stressors

Just 30 minutes of exercise has been shown to reduce stress. Therefore exercise is an important tool to utilise when your levels of stress or anxiety are on the rise.

Overall, it is understood that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive functioning. So let’s strap on the runners or dancing shoes and get moving for a whole mind and body benefit!


Kate Hooper

B Psychology and M Social Work

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