Though our bodies are tangible and physical, they have a very deep connection with our minds. The relationship between mental health and fitness can be visualized as 2 sides of the same coin because each side has a major impact on the other.

Any major impact on your physical health will have consequences on your mental health and vice versa. So, you must make sure that you strike a balance between both entities and integrate both to achieve your fitness as well as mental health goals.

Let’s get started!

Mental Health and Fitness: Impact of Physical Activity

1. Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activities could result in an improvement in your mental health. There are a number of reasons behind this which will be explained later in this article.

Exercising can not just help improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression but it can also improve your sleep quality and reduce stress.

2. How Nutrition can Improve Your Mental Health?

What we consume has a direct bearing on how we function. Diets that are rich in nutrients can help enhance your brain function and emotional stability.

On the other hand, diets that are high in sugar and processed foods will lead to an increase in the risk of mental health disorders.

So, if you want a healthy brain, make sure you eat a diet rich in nutrients like minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, protein, etc.

Any deficiency of these minerals will lead to mood disorders and hence will affect the overall functioning of your body.


3. Affect of Chronic Illness on Mental Health

Different physical conditions like chronic pain or other debilitating diseases can, without any doubt, affect the mental health of the patients. These diseases result in physical discomfort and pain which can further lead to anxiety, stress, and depression.

So addressing the physical issues is not essential just for your physical health but also for your mental well-being.

4. Exercise and Its Impact on Your Brain

Now let’s understand the mechanism and background behind regular exercise and its impact on mental health.

Though exercising might seem quite simple on the surface, a number of chemical reactions occur inside the body each time you do a workout or even go for a run.

Any physical activity results in a number of complex chemical reactions in your body that have positive effects on the brain.

Now let’s have a look at what happens in your body when you exercise.

5. Release of Several Neurotransmitters

A number of important chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters are released in your nervous system when you exercise. The amount of neurotransmitters released depend on the intensity as well as the type of physical exercise you perform.

Here are some of the neurotransmitters that are released when you exercise:

Endorphins and Endocannabinoids

The most common type of neurotransmitter released when people exercise is endorphins. Besides these neurotransmitters, lesser-known transmitters known as endocannabinoids are also released when you workout and they play an important role in your brain.

The benefit of endorphins is that they help to block pain and increase the sensation of joy.

On the other hand, endocannabinoids help to give you the feeling of calmness after a strenuous workout. However, when they both work together, they help to give you a euphoric feeling after a hard workout.


Dopamine is an important exercise-related neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the way you feel pleasure.

It is also important in a number of processes in your body like regulating the heart rate, affecting your mood, working memory, learning, motivation, speech cycle, etc.

However, there is not enough evidence that can help us to know which exercise best stimulates the release of dopamine. So it is best that you perform a workout that targets all the major muscle groups in your body.

6. Promotes Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the process by which your nervous system changes its activity based on any internal or external stimuli. The process of neuroplasticity helps in learning new activities, languages and even new skills.

Different studies show that exercise and workouts can help to promote neuroplasticity by increasing the signal in factors in your brain.

7. Increased Oxygen Supply to the Brain

This is a very obvious phenomenon that happens when you exercise. During workouts, your heart starts to beat faster and hence this increases the amount of oxygen supply to the brain.

When more oxygen is supplied to the Brain, it enhances the executive function in the brain which includes activities like more self-control, flexible thinking and working memory.

According to a study, exercise can also help to increase the blood flow to the cerebrum in patients with mild cognitive impairment. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and is related to the intellectual function and motor activity of humans.

Physical Health Benefits on Your Mental Health

1. Exercise Improves the Mood

With aerobic exercise and workouts, immediate changes occur in the brain which can improve mood. Researchers have even found that regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of distress, anxiety, and depression.

The major reason behind this is that exercising leads to the release of feel good hormones in the brain like endorphin serotonin and dopamine.

2. Exercise Helps to Look After Your Mental Health with Emotion Regulation

Though there are many ways to enhance your emotions and mood, exercise is the best of them. Eating junk will help to enhance your mood but it will later have drastic effects on your body.

Eating a bag of candy will even have a good effect on your mood but a bad effect on your body later on due to a sugar crush.

On the other hand, exercising fosters neurological changes that can make the positive effect on your brain more sustainable.

The very act of exercise helps you not to procrastinate and even handle uncomfortable emotions without avoiding them.

You should exercise regularly because it can treat different symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any other mental health condition in which a person is trying to avoid certain types of  emotions.

mental benefits of physical activity

3. Can Promote Better Sleep

The most important result of maintaining mental health is the better quality of sleep you receive each night.  There are a number of factors that can affect the quality of sleep you get, the level of physical activity being one of them.

According to a study conducted in 2017, regardless of the type of exercise you perform, it can help to enhance the efficiency of your sleep and even the duration of it.

There are even situations where people get good quality sleep but they struggle to fall asleep. This condition is known as sleep latency and exercise can improve the time you take to fall asleep.

If you face difficulty in either getting enough sleep or even falling asleep, exercise regardless of the type can prove to be beneficial.

4. Get Started with Exercise as It Can Promote Sharper Memory & Thinking

Besides having a number of positive effects on your mental health, regular exercise and workouts can even have positive effects on memory and thinking. Indulging in a physical workout can enhance the mental clarity, attention span as well as working memory.

This is particularly effective for adults above the age of 50 because regular exercise has shown to reduce cognitive decline in them.

5. Increasing Heart Rate Variability

You can measure the health of your heart by knowing its heart range which is the difference between your heartbeat in the resting position and your heartbeat when you are working out.

This figure is known as heart rate variability which is also considered as an indicator to show how strong is the connection between your brain and body.

The role of exercise comes here because it improves your heart rate variability which, in turn, can help you protect against various mental health issues.

You can increase this heart rate range by practicing waves of intense exercise like high-intensity interval training with low intensity exercises like interval exercise.

High-intensity interval training is particularly beneficial for adults who do not get time or are not fit enough to perform the recommended amount of exercise per week.

However, if you have a serious condition or an illness then it is always recommended to consult your physical therapist.

6. Impact on Our Self-Esteem

Self-esteem refers to the way you perceive your worth and feel about yourself. It is an indicator of your mental health and also helps you to cope with whatever comes in your life in a positive way.

Regular exercise and workouts do not just provide a positive impact on your physical health but can also improve your self-esteem or self-worth.

Studies have shown this in not just children but also adolescents, young adults, adults and even older people. Moreover, exercise can improve your self-worth irrespective of your gender.

7. Impact on Depression and Anxiety

If you are practicing different treatments of depression without seeing any results then it’s high time to incorporate physical activity or exercise into your lifestyle.

Exercise can either be used as a stand-alone treatment of depression or it can even be integrated with psychological therapy or medical treatments.

The benefit of using exercise as a treatment for depression is that it does not have any side effects when compared to psychotherapy or consuming antidepressants.

As mentioned above, physical therapy can help reduce stress while regulating your mood. The cherry on top here is that it has few costs attached to it and is available to all.

8. Exercise and PTSD and Trauma

Exercising for people who have PTSD or trauma can help the nervous system to get unstuck and move out from the immobilization stress response.

Instead of wandering about your trauma, you can pay attention to the physical sensations that you feel in your joints and muscles while working out.

Some of the best choices of exercises for people who have trauma include movements that engage both your legs and arms like running, swimming, dancing, etc.

Physical activities like hiking, skiing, etc. have also been shown to help reduce the symptoms of trauma and PTSD.

The reason that can be thought behind this is that exercise helps you build resilience so that you can cope with difficult situations in a healthy way. So regular exercise can be a great alternative to resorting to alcohol and drugs.

9. Improving Body Image

Physical activity can help increase the confidence of people in their ability to achieve whatever they want. This ability is referred to as self-efficacy, which helps people to improve their body image. But when you exercise, remember not to just work out for the sake of doing it.

Instead, make sure that you exercise for the fun of it and because you enjoy it. It is only then that you will feel better about yourself and will continue working out.

mental fitness


Thus, this is all you need to know about the mind and body connection. Now you know the umpteen positive effects of exercise and physical activities on your mental health.

From depression or anxiety to improving your self-worth, exercise has been known to improve the different aspects of your mental health. So, make sure you integrate a healthy workout routine in your lifestyle.

Good Luck!

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