Sweat Your Stress Away: How Exercising Improves Mental Health


The human body was meant to move. Without daily physical activity, we see things start to break down: chronic health issues develop, energy levels drop, body fat accumulates, and our overall physical function may start to decline. When coupled with the day-to-day stresses of our modern lives, it’s no wonder that all this can take a serious toll on our mental health.
And in a vicious feed-forward cycle, being more stressed, anxious, and depressed often makes us less likely to exercise. This is highly unfortunate, especially when you consider just how incredibly beneficial daily physical exercise can be for your mental health–let alone the numerous benefits it provides for our physical health.

So, the next time you’re feeling particularly frazzled, stressed out, or down in the dumps, then consider reaching for your sneakers…instead of the TV remote, a bar of chocolate, or that second glass of wine. It should go without saying that if you struggle with chronic mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or PTSD, and/or if you currently take psychotropic medications to help you manage these symptoms, then you should definitely keep your doctor or therapist in the loop. Never stop taking your prescribed medications without professional guidance–even if you start to feel a lot better.

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And better you will feel, we strongly believe, once you start exercising daily–and it may not take as long as you might think.

10 Stress-Busting, Mood-Boosting Benefits of Exercise

Research from the Association for Applied Sports Psychology (as well as many other professional organizations) shows that exercise offers several psychological benefits to anyone who participates regularly. This includes:

  • General improvement in mood
  • Improved stress management and coping mechanisms
  • Improved self-esteem and self-worth
  • An increase in healthy sense of pride in personal accomplishments
  • Increased satisfaction with self and life
  • Better body image
  • Improved energy
  • Increased mental focus and memory
  • Improved confidence in one’s physical capacity
  • Decreased depression and associated symptoms (including despair, hopelessness, poor sleep, and low energy)

Take a Brisk Walk & Call Me in the Morning: How Much Exercise Is Needed for Positive Mental Benefits

Perhaps even better news than the fact that exercise is good for your body and brain is that you don’t need to spend hours in the gym to reap the beneficial effects. Research suggests that going for a brief and brisk walk as short as 10 minutes can improve your mood.


For optimal benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 3 times per week. Include things you enjoy doing, and try to mix it up between cardio and resistance training.

Do you have a stressed-out friend or coworker in your life? Share this article with them. If you’ve got a favorite way to de-stress yourself, let us know about it in the comments below!

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Sara M. is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and freelance writer living and working near Boston, MA. As a former CrossFit gym owner and current fitness lover, Sara has a lot of personal and professional experience inside and outside the gym. She loves to write about various topics related to health, wellness, nutrition, human behavior, and self-mastery.