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Exercise and Mental Health

Posted by Erin Fischer on

Just like sleep and diet, exercise is also important for our mental health but just how important is it and how much exercise should we do. More and more studies are showing that exercising is a good way to help manage mental health and is that something that should be recommended alongside of traditional mental illness treatments.

When we exercise, we release endorphins, and our body produces serotonin which makes us happy and gives us a much-needed mood boost. Exercise can also be a good distraction and can provide is with something to focus on other than our feelings. Along with helping our mental health exercise can also prevent chronic conditions from developing include type two diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol. People who exercise on a regular basis also experience the following:

  • Improved sleep
  • Stress Relief
  • Better endurance
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Improvement in mood
  • Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness

The consensus is we need to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week to get these benefits. If 30 minutes seems daunting, you can break it up into blocks of 10 minutes three times a day, as three 10-minute walks throughout the day have the same impact of one 30-minute walk. Previously people have believed that there is no such thing as too much exercise. However, studies are showing that there now is, with people who exercise for over 3 hours a day experiencing negative side effects. Researchers found that those who exercised between 30-60 minutes 3-5 times a week more mentally healthy than those who exercised for 3 hours or more 3-5 times a week and having results like those who didn’t exercise at all. This is because that those who exercise for more than 3 hours at a time may be showing obsessive behaviours which can be related to poor mental health.

To see the benefits of exercise on our mental health we need to do it long term, so it’s best to find exercise that isn’t just doable but also fun and something you look forward to. Any exercise is better than no exercise but ideally you should aim for something that gets your blood pumping such as brisk walking, cycling, or running. If none of those things sound appealing other things you could look into:

  • Casual team sport – such as basketball or mixed netball.
  • Dancing or aerobics.
  • Taking your dog (or a friend’s dog) for a walk around your neighbourhood.
  • Joining a sports class at a local gym.

If exercising alone is daunting, you could meet up with a friend so you can hold each other accountable while also getting in some social time. As mentioned above you don’t need to do 30 minutes of continuous exercise to achieve the benefits so it might be easier to slip three 10 minutes blocks of exercise into your day compared to setting aside one 30-minute block.

If you find exercise daunting, you could also try to do regular physical activity this isn’t the same exercise but is any activity that gets your blood pumping. Examples of physical activity include the following:

  • Parking your car further away from a location and walking the extra distance.
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walking to the shops or work instead of driving.

Any little bit helps and will make a difference while also boosting your mood.

Once you get into the habit of exercising and increasing your physical activity not only will it become physically less demanding, but you will also find yourself enjoying it and it will no longer become a chore. Not only is exercise good for your mental health it can also help you be more social, gain confidence and help you cope in a healthy way. All it takes is 30 minutes three to five times a week to see the benefits which in the long term are well worth it.

Feel free to drop by, just say, ‘Hey Erin’ in strict confidence and you can be anonymous if you wish. Or, do not hesitate to leave a question in the comments below any time.


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Chekroud, S.R., Gueorguieva, R., Zheutlin, A.B., Paulus, M., Krumholz, H.M., Krystal, J.H. and Chekroud, A.M. (2018). Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet Psychiatry, [online] 5(9), pp.739–746. Available at:

Cohut, M. (2018). Exercise for mental health: How much is too much? [online] Available at:

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Raglin, J.S. (1990). Exercise and Mental Health. [online] Available at:

Sharma, A., Madaan, V. and Petty, F.D. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, [online] 8(2), p.106. Available at:



About Erin Fischer

Am the qualified mental health professional at Barty Single Origin. Write topical pieces with a focus on mental health. Always available on chat, Passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and letting people know it's A-OK to be not OK.


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