4 Ways Exercise Improves Mental Health

When it comes to our overall health and wellness, the best place to start is your mental health. When you’re feeling depressed, anxious, confused, scared, or stressed, what do you do? Many people fall into patterns of eating junk food, watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, or other unhealthy behaviors.

It’s time to get moving in the right direction. The direction that gets your body moving to be exact!

1.   Exercise helps you sleep better

Exercise strengthens circadian rhythms. According to researchers, regular exercise leads to a better night’s sleep with more quality sleep. It’s a fact that when you’re getting your 7-9 hours of sleep each night, your energy levels will be up and your mood increases. You become more productive. Your brain is rested enough to be able to focus and produce better results in your life. While results may not come right away, (it can take up to 3 or 4 months) starting a regular workout routine just might be the ticket if you suffer from insomnia and as a result, it’s affecting your mental health.

2.   Exercise increases self-confidence

Americans spend billions of dollars a year for products designed to change their body size and shape, including diet pills and various cosmetic procedures. The power exercise has on the mind to see ourselves in a better light and transform our bodies along with proper nutrition, is a beautiful way to embrace wellness and health. When you start seeing progress and results with consistency, it creates confidence. It’s great to see progress, however, one study found that it really didn’t matter how fit you were. Exercise in and of itself can convince you that you look better. Now that’s a cool side effect to exercise. Seeing yourself as you really are!

3.   Exercise improves mental strength

Quite possibly the best part about exercise is its ability to help you develop the mental toughness you need to stay with something even when it gets hard. Choosing not to quit is an incredible challenge to conquer in life. You can build this brain muscle by sticking through a tough workout, being consistent with your workouts, and pushing past the pain of that last rep! Exercise can reboot your brain if you’re slipping into unhealthy habits due to stress. Instead of eating junk food or drinking alcohol, pick up a jump rope instead and start skipping away. You’ll notice your stress start slipping away too. If you’ve done the work to build up that mental toughness, you’ll be ahead of the game when life gets unpredictable.

4.   Exercise aids in hormone regulation

Our bodies have different types of hormones such as, insulin, adrenaline, serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, and oxytocin, just to name a few. When we exercise, our body’s hormones execute activities like regulating body temperature, strengthening muscles, altering mood, and stimulating metabolism for weight loss. We’ve all heard of dopamine being related to feeling good. Exercise increases dopamine levels in the brain, which decreases stress and even depression. You’ve most likely heard of a “runner’s high.” Many runner’s experience runners high due to those feel-good transmitters enhancing. Physical activity can also boost testosterone. Higher testosterone levels can also slow the natural effects of aging. Yet another reason to get your workouts in every day.

Which exercises are best for mental health and hormone balance?

In short, whichever exercises you’ll stick with and enjoy. Experts recommend a combination of strength training and cardio workouts to maximize health benefits and boost hormone levels. We recommend taking a couple of high intensity classes like Tabata per week to increase your endurance.. The more intense a workout, the more these hormones are released.But don’t forget to strengthen your muscles and hit the strength floor. Follow it up with foam rolling and stretching and you have one well-rounded workout schedule! 

Don’t forget…consistency is key. Results don’t occur overnight. To keep a steady flow of healthy hormones throughout your body, make a workout plan and stick with it. All in all, it’s hard to find a way that exercise doesn’t help the mind. Exercise is such a powerful stimulus to your brain. Take advantage of the tools you have right now in order to be at top mental capacity in all areas of your life.


Heather Mitchell is a Certified Master Health Coach, Wellness Educator and Fitness Instructor. Heather teaches busy families how to increase focus, stay energized and improve overall health and outlook on life. Using the principles of clean eating, self care, and exercise, she helps her clients take the mystery out of eating real food and sticking to a workout routine to get results in a fun way. In addition to being a group fitness instructor at MSF, Heather has a private practice, “Health Coach Heather” in Gilbert, AZ where she coaches clients one-on-one, facilitates corporate and community workshops, and leads coaching programs to improve mental and physical health.