Benefits of Regular Exercise on Mental Health Explained

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A healthy physique leads to a healthy mindset. We all have heard in one way or another how exercise helps in staying fit. But few know the benefits of regular exercise on mental health. Regular exercises stimulate the human mood and remain a decisive factor when dealing with depression, anxiety, receiving stress, and more.

The benefits of regular exercise on mental health
The benefits of regular exercise on mental health

Other than doing the regular endurance test and enhancing your muscular capability, exercises do something really important. It is through daily workouts that people feel motivated and habituated to stay active. Know more about the positive results of different exercises on mental health.

Positive Effects of Regular Exercise on Mental Health

To define mental health in terms of WHO, it is a state of well-being where every individual gets aware of his/her abilities and deals with daily life stress. If you are mentally stable, then you are ready to contribute back to society. The most significant way of promoting good mental health is by adopting physical activities into the daily timetable. Here are a few positive effects of exercise on mental health –

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Positive Effects of Regular Exercise on Mental Health
Positive Effects of Regular Exercise on Mental Health

~ Clear Thinking

When we are in a stressful situation or optimal or severe depression our mind starts to tangle up. People in unstable mental conditions don’t know what and why they are thinking. However, exercising regularly improves your focus and concentration power. Regardless of your age, evidence proves that exercise duly builds concentration ability after exercises. Even for Alzheimer’s patients, it helps improve blood flow and enriched levels of proteins in the brain.

Breathing exercises like deep inhales or exhales would help you practice mindfulness.

~ Release of Endorphins in the Brain

When your brain’s endorphin release enhances then your body feels more energetic and ready to tackle any hectic job. These endorphins are the feel-good hormones. When you have a sufficient amount of these hormones, then your perception of pain gets triggered. You can have greater endurance throughout the day, due to good performing cardiovascular health.

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~ Don’t Feel Insomniac / Sleep Denied

Nobody likes the cranky feeling after a bad night’s sleep. If that happens for one or two days that’s acceptable but when this becomes a regular phenomenon, that becomes the problem. Prolonged condition insomnia leads to innumerable mental health conditions, the most common are anxiety and stress.

But during the day when your body labors from physical exercises, then the brain functions healthily. The body will release good chemicals that help you to get rid of pre-sleep anxiety and common sleep issues. You can sleep deeply to recover from mental exertion.

~ You Won’t Feel Moody

Lack of physical activity often impacts our minds and leads us to a bad mood for prolonged hours. Often the feeling of uselessness without physical exercise results in fluctuating moods or frequent mood swings. After exercising or running for even an hour, the brain releases some euphoric chemicals. This helps in reducing anxiety and assists you in staying calm.

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~ The Ultimate Stress Buster

It is believed that a certain level of stress is healthy for our bodies. It helps to stay productive. But when an overwhelming amount of stress accumulates then such changes affect brain development. Immense stress can result in mental and physical illness. So, regular exercise can help with stress combustion. It limits the stress hormones in our body including cortisol and adrenalin. Gradually, it starts reflecting a positive impact on your body.

~ Alleviates Anxiety

Mental illness is more common among Gen Zs because they lead an indoor lifestyle. Especially, after all these work-from-home drives and the pandemic, people are becoming more restricted in their drawing and ultimately getting obese day by day. These not only affect your body but also contribute to specific mental illnesses like anxiety. Motor skill enhancement exercises like arm and leg exercises, or even simply moving, and running can alleviate your anxiety.

~ Relieves from Depression

Depression is the most threatening mental ailment that you must resolute to take measures from today. It is said that depression may take years or can take the severe stage within months. All those negative thoughts that pile up and turn into something dangerous must be released immediately through exercise. There are Indianised yogas as well as pranayamas that have sound solutions to relieve depression.

~ Helps You to Feel United

When you exercise within groups then your mind does not feel socially isolated. There are physical activities that require community support particularly when you participate in a running marathon, cycling, or swimming. So, all these group activities create a sense of unity and help to keep in touch with your friends and neighbors.

Types of Exercises that are Beneficial for Mental Health

There are different types of exercises such as aerobic mindful practices which boost your moods. These exercises reduce mental phenomena like anxiety and depression with the smooth circulation of blood to the brain through the influence of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis. Here are different exercise types-

~ Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises engage maximum body potential and therefore reduce the risks of many physical and mental health conditions. Aerobic exercises like running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, and walking are particularly effective because they test the maximum heart and lung capacity. Studies found that aerobics intensifies brain processes by increasing the size and functioning of prime brain regions. It reduces inflammation and enhances resistance to oxidative stress.

Aerobic exercises engage a higher level of physical activity. Therefore, it prevents the chances of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

~ Resistance Training

Resistance Training comprises a broader group of procedures that evoke continued muscle action against resistance. There are direct links between resistance training and mental health as they boost cognitive ability, decrease depression, and enhance self-esteem.

  • Benefits of Strength Training

Particularly strength training as a form of resistance building majorly benefits mental health. With proper strength training regularly, you can have a stable mood and some behavioral changes can be achieved. Positive changes like building habits and adhering to a timetable can be possible with the release of good chemicals into your brain.

~ Mindful Practices ( Yoga, Tai Chi)

Many traditional culturally embedded exercise techniques have shown fruitful results in improving mindfulness. You may be amazed by the benefits of these Asiatic exercise practices.

  • Tai Chi

Tai Chi and qigong are Chinese traditional exercises that are broadly practiced for health and cognitive benefits. Originally they are known as martial arts techniques rehearsed for hundreds of years. There are countable adverse cases reported in the Chinese Tai Chi literature.

Tai chi is described as mind- a body intervention technique and is known as a healthy meditative movement. Most of the acts and forms are safe for all ages and are non-pharmacologic practices. If your acquaintance or you suffer from any psychosomatic disorders, Tai Chi can treat or at best prevent such disorders.

  • Yoga

Ancient Indian Yoga practices have their references in the Vedic ages and can successfully calm your mind. There are a variety of yogic postures or types which in one way or another would bring deeper results for sure.

  • While doing yoga, the brain cells make new connections with improved cognitive abilities such as memory power and learning.
  • By combining yoga with meditation, an individual can acquire greater mental acuity. Have better mental performance in terms of making a memory, reaction time, logical reasoning, and decision making.
  • Yoga and edition help in deeper contemplation. Earlier what drug or counseling therapies did to you, now with regular yoga practice, you can have even better outcomes.
  • You will experience lesser mood swings and negative thought processes will evaded away.
regular exercise on mental health

~ High-Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval Training (HIIT) requires higher energy for practicing insensitive exercises. However, there are shorter recovery windows to expect maximum results. HIIT exercises are known for building strength and endurance but very few know about their positive mental health results. HIIT exercises go beyond improving a good mood, particularly in combatting stress and maintaining mental fitness. Even patients with chronic schizophrenia can practice HIIT for sound improvements. Beginners can start with cardio, calisthenics, and weight lifting.

~ Other Outdoor Activities

Other than hard-core exercising, if you have a knack for some other productive outdoor activities then also you will contribute to good mental health. When you step into the outside world and socialize with others it creates a sense of belonging. So, if you are a water person go swimming. While you focus on your longer breaths swimming helps in greater concentration abilities.

Other outdoor activities like gardening, hiking, or foraging would give you mental stability.

Optimal Amount of Exercise for Mental Health

The amount of Exercise an individual should perform for good mental health depends on case to case. For beginners, only 30 minutes a day for 4-5 days a week will suffice. However, those who want to enhance their physical ability alongside their mental health must practice exercises for extra hours a week.

5 ways to reduce stress right now
5 ways to reduce stress right now

The Current Guidelines for Physical Activity

Even though physical exercise is necessary for your mind and body, excessive exercise can lead to fatigue and exhaustion. So, here are some general guidelines for physical activity shared by the World Health Organization:

  • Infants within the age group of 0-1 years must engage in several physical activities within 24 hours. They at least should stay for 30 minutes in a prone position facing the tummy.
  • Infants between 1-5 years must engage in 180 minutes of moderate or low low-intensity physical activities.
  • Kids between 5-17 years of age must follow at least one hour of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity. Throughout the week they also should perform aerobic activities.
  • The age group of 18-64 has to perform 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity. If you are practicing vigorous intensive activity then 75-150 minutes of activity is acceptable. However, don’t overdo your share of exercises as the time course should be spread over the week.
  • Pregnant or postpartum women should practice 150 minutes of moderate-integrity physical activities spread throughout the week.

Possible Benefits in Different Levels of Exercise Intensity and Duration

Physical activity or exercises are generally categorized between three types of intensity: low, moderate, and high/vigorous. The MHR or Maximum Heart Rate decides whether an exercise falls as a low, moderate, or high-intensity workout. MHR is the highest point of intensity you are expected to reach during exercise.

Calculate MHR in this way: Your age ranges from 220. For the age group of the 20s, therefore, they should have approx. 200 beats a minute. Based on your personal MHR, you can estimate the total beats needed during activities depending on their intensity.

  • Low-Intensity Exercise:

For low-intensity exercises, you have to multiply the MHR by .30 or .50 based on your heart rate range. For example, for 20 years of age, when your MHR is 200 then: 200* 0.30= 60 beats. So for Low-intensity exercise, a healthy young heart must beat 60 times a minute.
Examples of these exercises are casual walking, light yoga, or biking. You can practice such exercises for 300 minutes a week. Such exercises help in staying active and in a good mood even though not athletic in the physique.

  • Moderate Intensity Exercise:

For Moderate exercises, multiply MHR 200 with 50 which means 100 beats per minute. Some of the common moderate-intensity exercises would include hiking, aerobic dancing, cycling, or brisk walking. Such activities are good for cardiovascular health and improve your motor skills. Your stress level and anxiety are alleviated. Practice such exercises for 200 minutes approximately a week.

  • High-Intensity Exercise:

HIIT exercises utilize 100 percent of the MHR. The high-intensive exercises require short but vigorous movements. Some of the HIIT exercises include cycling, running, roping, single tennis playing, or intensive workouts. High-intensity exercises are ideal for muscle and strength building and are good for your heart’s health. Practice 90-110 minutes of such exercises a week to witness good results.

How to Set Realistic and Achievable Exercise Goals

If you are serious about your mental health and therefore, want to start exercising daily, we have laid some realistic tips for you. These tips help you to achieve all your exercise goals.

  • Don’t get overwhelmed and set one goal at a time.
  • Don’t expect drastic results and instead take smaller steps. Have smaller but visible differences in a time-bound manner.
  • Begin low bar exercises starting from low-intensive exercises and gradually uplifting to moderate to high-level exercises.
  • Have enough sleep so that you can start fresh the next day.


The benefits of regular exercise on mental health are so evident that you can’t just oversee the prolonged positive changes. Exercise not only alleviates stress and anxiety or reduces the chances of depression. But it also helps in enhancing cognitive ability. Your mind will think rationally and can analytically start to solve worldly problems.

The best part is incorporating exercises into your daily routine won’t be troublesome for you. It is so because only thirty minutes of physical activity would be enough to witness the changes. However, don’t exhaust your body with extra physical exercises as it would drain out more energy than the goodness.

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Dr. Shefali Oliver
Dr. Shefali Oliver
Dr. Shefali Oliver is a leading expert in the field of mental health. He has been in private practice for over 8 years and has a reputation for providing compassionate and effective care to his patients. Additionally, Dr. Shefali is a strong advocate for mental health awareness and works to educate the public on the importance of seeking help when dealing with mental health issues.

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