The Benefits of Exercise

Did you know there is a huge amount of evidence that suggests that by engaging in physical activity, it has benefits for both physical and mental health. It has been found that one single bout of exercise can reduce anxiety. Some researchers have found that this reduction in anxiety can last for several hours after exercise. In relation to regular exercise research indicates that regular exercise can reduce or even prevent the onset of chronic anxiety. Exercise is now increasingly being prescribed by doctors to treat mild to moderate depression as it lacks the negative side effects of prescribing mediation. Exercise can be used as a treatment for depression on its own or it can be combined with other treatments such as counselling. 

There are physiological and Psychological explanations as to why exercise improves mental health:


  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain
  • Increased secretion of substances called neurotransmitters which can be low in depressed individuals
  • Increase in the production of endorphins - endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body


  • Improved self-esteem, self-confidence and self-concept
  • improved social interaction
  • Exercise improves positive thoughts and feelings
  • Provided a distraction from worries and concerns
  • provides an enhanced feeling of control

Regular exercise can improve cognitive functioning, this refers to our ability in mental processes such as memory, perception, reasoning and decision making. Research has shown that that long term exercise has the biggest effect than short term exercise.

Why physical activity improves cognitive functioning

  • Physical activity improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain
  • Physical activity helps the nervous system become more efficient 
  • Physical activity can prevent diseases such as hypertension and diabetes which are thought to have a negative effect on cognitive functioning
  • Physical activity leads to a more positive attitude, which in turn leads to greater motivation to try harder in cognitive tasks

Although exercise has many benefits for mental health, there can also be negative effects too!

Preparation for competitions can induce feelings of stress and anxiety, however, some people can develop skills to cope successfully with these stresses and appear to thrive under the pressure. It has also been suggested that people can become addicted to exercise and the positive feelings that are associated with it in the same way as people can be addicted to substances. Someone who is addicted to exercise will exercise at all costs and will experience withdrawal symptoms if they are not able to exercise. Symptoms include anxiety, irritability, guilt and muscle twitching. So be careful and always put your health first. A combination of aerobic and resistance activity at a moderate intensity five times each week or if the workout is considered vigorous then three days a week is recommended to improve fitness and live a fit and healthy lifestyle.

Reasons to choose to live a more active life

  • Exercise benefits mental health in people of all ages and population groups.
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced risk of developing diabetes
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Decreased risk of developing hypertension
  • Decreased risk of stroke
  • Reduced risk of developing some types of cancer such as breast and colon cancer
  • Lower risk of osteoporosis 
  • Helps to build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Reduces low-back and musculoskeletal pain
  • Increased range of motion for those suffering from arthritis
  • Long-term and short-term exercise have been shown to benefit mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
  • Aerobic exercise has received more positive attention than any other form of exercise but all types of exercise have plenty of benefits.

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