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part 2: how does exercise impact my mental health?

part 2: how does exercise impact my mental health?

June 10, 2024
  • healthy training

Harnessing Exercise for Mental Well-being: Practical Insights from Recent Research

Exercise isn’t just about improving physical fitness; it’s also a powerful tool for enhancing mental health. Recent research, including a pivotal study by Carson (2018), has underscored the significant benefits of regular physical activity in reducing days of poor mental health among participants. This blog post will delve into the types of exercise that are most beneficial for mental well-being and discuss the ideal frequency and duration to maximize these benefits without the risk of overexertion.

The Connection Between Exercise and Mental Health

Exercise has long been recognized as an effective non-pharmacological treatment to improve mood and reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Carson’s 2018 study illustrates how regular physical activity can substantially decrease the number of days individuals report poor mental health, emphasizing not just the physical but also the psychological benefits of exercise.

The biochemical theory behind this is that exercise increases the production of endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also leads to an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports brain health. Furthermore, exercise aids in regulating the body’s sleep-wake cycles, which can be severely disrupted by stress, depression, and anxiety.

Optimal Types of Exercise for Mental Health

The study by Carson (2018) highlights that not all forms of exercise are equal in their mental health benefits. Team sports, which combine physical activity with social interaction, can be particularly effective in improving mental health. Social interaction itself is a significant mood booster and helps in building a support network that is crucial for mental well-being.

Aerobic exercises such as cycling, running, and swimming have also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. These activities help in reducing levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating the production of endorphins.

Finding the Right Balance: Frequency and Duration

One of the critical insights from Carson’s research is the identification of the most beneficial frequency and duration of exercise. The study suggests that a moderate amount of exercise is the key to optimizing mental health benefits. Specifically, individuals who engaged in 45-minute sessions of exercise three to five times a week experienced the most significant benefits.

However, it’s important to note that more exercise is not always better. Overexerting oneself can lead to increased fatigue, injury, and even a negative impact on mental health. Therefore, it is crucial to find a balance that fits one’s lifestyle and physical capabilities without leading to burnout or injury.

Practical Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Your Routine

Here are some practical tips to incorporate exercise into your daily routine to enhance mental well-being:

  • Start Small: If you are new to exercise, start with shorter durations and gradually increase your activity level as your fitness improves.
  • Choose Activities You Enjoy: You’re more likely to stick with an exercise routine if you enjoy the activities. Whether it’s hiking, yoga, dancing, or playing a sport, enjoying your workout makes it less of a chore.
  • Make It Social: Engage in team sports or group fitness classes where social interaction can also contribute to improving your mental health.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Setting achievable goals can help keep you motivated and make you more likely to stick with your exercise regimen.
  • Be Consistent: Try to maintain a regular schedule, and remember that even smaller amounts of activity can have a positive impact on your mental health.


The connection between exercise and improved mental health is clear and supported by growing research, including Carson’s 2018 study. By incorporating regular, enjoyable physical activities into our routines, we can harness the therapeutic powers of exercise to enhance not only our physical health but our mental well-being as well.

For those looking to reduce mental health days and enhance overall well-being, integrating an exercise routine tailored to your preferences and lifestyle can provide significant benefits. As always, consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have existing health concerns. (Carson, 2018)

Regular physical activity can be a delightful and effective way to improve life quality, proving that taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body.