Mental health and exercise: Why should I move?

As a therapist, I am passionate about promoting mental health and well-being in all aspects of life, including physical activity.


In this article, I want to explore the benefits of fitness, exercise, and movement for mental health.

Firstly, let's define what we mean by "fitness." Fitness refers to the overall state of physical health, including the ability to perform daily activities with ease and without undue fatigue. Fitness can be achieved through various forms of exercise and movement, such as strength training, cardio, and yoga.

The benefits of fitness and exercise for physical health are well documented, but did you know that exercise can also have a positive impact on mental health and well-being? Let's take a look at some of the ways that fitness can benefit mental health:

Reduces stress and anxiety

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that can help to improve our mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. In addition, exercise can help to reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can have negative effects on mental health when levels are too high.

Boosts self-esteem and confidence

Exercise can also help to boost self-esteem and confidence. When we exercise, we are challenging ourselves physically and mentally, and we often feel a sense of accomplishment when we complete a workout or achieve a fitness goal. This sense of accomplishment can help to improve our self-esteem and confidence in other areas of our lives as well.

Improves sleep

Regular exercise can also improve sleep quality. When we exercise, we use up energy and tire our bodies out, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. In addition, exercise can help to regulate our sleep cycles, leading to more restful and restorative sleep.

Increases energy levels

Exercise can also increase energy levels. When we exercise, we are increasing blood flow and oxygen to our brains and bodies, which can help us feel more alert and energised. Regular exercise can also help to improve overall physical fitness, making it easier to perform daily activities with less fatigue.

Helps manage depression and mood disorders

Finally, exercise can be a helpful tool in managing depression and other mood disorders. Exercise has been shown to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play a role in regulating mood. In addition, exercise can help to distract from negative thoughts and feelings, providing a healthy outlet for managing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

How can we incorporate fitness and exercise into our daily lives?

Here are some tips:

Start small

If you are new to exercise or have not exercised in a while, it is important to start small and gradually build up your fitness level. This can help to prevent injury and ensure that you enjoy the process of getting fit. Try starting with just 10 minutes of exercise per day and gradually increasing the duration and intensity over time.

Choose activities you enjoy

Exercise should be enjoyable! Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit into your lifestyle. This could be anything from going for a walk in nature to trying out a new fitness class at your gym. The key is to find something that you look forward to doing and that feels good for your body.

Find a workout buddy

Working out with a friend can be a great way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable. Find a friend or family member who shares your fitness goals and make a plan to exercise together regularly. This can be a great way to stay motivated and have fun while getting fit.

Incorporate movement into your daily routine

Exercise doesn't have to be limited to a gym or structured workout. Look for ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine, such as taking a walk to the shop.

Finally, go gentle!  This is not another job, talk and to-do list.  Health and fitness are positive gifts to yourself!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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St. Albans AL4 & Stevenage SG2
Written by Amy Engleman, Psychotherapist. Hertfordshire & Online. Trauma Informed
St. Albans AL4 & Stevenage SG2

Amy is a Trauma informed psychotherapist. A full time as a junior and young adult she has first hand knowldge of the benefits of movement, health and fitness. In her own practice she encourages movement and activity as a core compenent of self care and recovery. In her own life she enjoys walking, HIIT classes and tennis.

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