Physical Activity/Exercise for Mental Health

by Tia Dewick in Training

mental health

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscles whereas exercise is planned, structured, and repetitive bodily movement which results in a significant increase in energy expenditure above the resting rate to improve or maintain health and/or fitness. Physical activity is typically a part of every day life such as completing chores around the house whereas exercise is planned sessions which typically last 30-60 minutes such as running or performing a resistance workout. But what’s important to remember is that both physical activity and exercise can play a very important and positive role in your mental health.


Mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression have been shown to be improved through the uptake of physical activity and/or exercise. And so what’s really important to consider is that there’s form of activity out there for pretty much everyone that can help improve our mental health. Mental health has the ability to ‘get under our skin’ and translate into physical symptoms such as lack of energy and sweaty palms BUT we can help reduce and in some cases prevent these symptoms from occurring to improve our overall health. All you need to do to achieve this is find an activity that suits you. You may want to join a fitness class to have social support or you may want to start running for some ‘me time’. You might get it wrong the first time and not enjoy the activity that you thought you would, but there’s plenty of activities to try again with a new one! There’s yoga, circuits, swimming, running, brisk walking, basketball, football, aerobics and many many many more! 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every week for 19-64 year olds has been shown to have the greatest mental health benefits with most evidence in favour of aerobic exercise. But again, it depends on what you enjoy, there is not a one size fits all approach. You’ve just got to find an activity that suits you and your lifestyle. By doing so, you can help to:

Reduce anxiety

Reduce depression

Reduce stress

Improve mood

Increase endorphins (happy hormones)

Increase energy

Improve sleep

Improve self esteem and confidence

Improve mental alertness

Not to mention exercise/physical activity can also aid the prevention of weight gain or even to help lose weight which has further physiological and psychological benefits such as reduced cholesterol and improved confidence.

And lots more!


I appreciate that exercise and physical activity can feel almost impossible on days when you are feeling down in the dumps or are unwell and it’s okay to miss a session. The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and acknowledge what is in your best interests each day as it comes. We hope you find an activity that suits your lifestyle and your interests! I love netball and HIIT training. What about you?