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Get Fit for Your Mind: Discover the Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to boost your overall health and well-being, but did you know that it’s also an effective tool to alleviate anxiety and depression and help with mental health issues? In this modern day, many things can trigger a stress response. To prevent and maintain the well-being of our mind, we can turn to exercise.

Megan Fraser

Fact Checked

Updated: 14 May 2024

To honour mental health awareness week in Australia, we’ve curated this article as a guide regarding exercise and mental health. Exercise offers many benefits that positively affect the body and brain, helping you live a healthier, happier life. Remember to visit a mental health professional if you are struggling.

Key facts

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When is mental health awareness week in Australia?

Each year, Mental Health Awareness Week is held in Australia during the second week of October. The awareness week aims to encourage people to have a conversation about mental health and break down the stigma surrounding it. This year, Mental Health Awareness Week will be held from 10th-16th October.

During the week, several events and activities will occur across the country. These include mental health forums, walks and runs, and information sessions. If you are interested in getting involved, you can find more information on the Mental Health Foundation website.

Mental health benefits of exercise

Regular exercise is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and it has been shown to have numerous benefits for mental health. If you are not already exercising regularly, you may wonder how much you need to do to make a difference. The good news is that low or moderate-intensity exercise is enough to positively impact your mood and thinking patterns.

Below are some of the mental and emotional well-being benefits you’ll receive from exercise:

Exercise for depression and anxiety

Exercise is beneficial for our mental health in several ways. Research has also found that exercise can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression and can even be used as a preventive measure against developing these mental health conditions.

One theory is that exercise helps to release chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Other research suggests that exercise can help reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol, and can increase levels of brain chemicals called neurotrophic or growth factors, which are essential for neuronal health and survival. Whatever the mechanism, there is no doubt that regular exercise can have a positive impact on our mental health.

Which exercise is best for mental health?

The best exercise for you is the kind of exercise you enjoy, that you can maintain for a long period of time, and that has your body’s longevity in mind. Different types of exercise may bring about different physical and mental responses. For example, High-Intensity Interval Training workouts may be more effective in calorie burning and improving cardiovascular health, but they can also be challenging to stick with on a long-term basis. 

More moderate forms of exercise are easier to maintain in the long term. Yoga is beneficial for your physical well-being and mental health. It combines breathwork and slow movement to connect with your body, making it easier to stick with. Ultimately, the best exercise is the one that you will do regularly. If you are not able to improve your condition with lifestyle changes, it may be a good idea to compare health insurance quotes for mental health.

Top 5 best activities for your mental health

There are many different types of exercise, each with unique benefits. However, we should aim for a balanced exercise routine that includes both resistance and aerobic training. Resistance training helps to strengthen our muscles and joints, while aerobic training challenges our cardiorespiratory system.

When it comes to mental health exercises, the rule stays the same: try to incorporate a few different types of exercise into your regime. This keeps you on your toes and prevents burnout from one exercise. For better mental health, you should get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days, three to five times per week.

Yoga

Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Like other mind and body practices, yoga is often used for stress management and relaxation. Although most people practise yoga for the physical benefits, there are mental health benefits as well. Research suggests that practising yoga can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yoga may also help to improve the quality of sleep and increase self-esteem. Overall, yoga provides a wide range of physical and mental health benefits. If you are new to yoga, taking a beginner’s class is recommended to learn the basic poses and breathwork before moving on to more advanced practices.

Walking

Walking is a simple and easy way to improve your mood and mental health. Walking helps increase blood flow and circulation to the brain, which benefits your overall mental health. Walking also helps to boost your mood by positively influencing your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is responsible for your stress response. When you walk, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that have a positive effect on your mood and emotions. Endorphins help to improve your mood and alleviate stress. Walking is also a great way to get some fresh air and vitamin D, both of which are good for your mental health.

Cycling

When you cycle, your heart rate increases, and blood flows more rapidly around your body. This increased blood flow helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, allowing a rapid spread of endorphins and other good substances like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Cycling is also an enjoyable way to get outdoors, reconnect with nature, or do with a friend.

Running

Running is often hailed as a great way to improve physical health, but it can also positively impact mental health. Aerobic exercises like running have been shown to work like anti-depressants, helping treat mild to moderate depression cases. The relationship between running and mental health is thought to be due in part to the release of endorphins, which can promote feelings of well-being and happiness. In addition, running can also help to alleviate stress and anxiety, making it an effective tool for managing mental health. And, of course, the benefits of running don’t stop there. Regular running can also help with weight management and improved health. 

Team Sports

Team sports has a positive effect on mental health. Regular physical activity is known to reduce anxiety and boost mood, and team sports provide an opportunity for social interaction and peer bonding. These factors all contribute to a reduced risk of stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, team sports can be a great source of motivation. A team environment’s structure and discipline can help people focus their energy and achieve goals they may not have thought possible. Participating in team sports is a great option whether you are looking to boost your mental health or just want to get fit.

Other things you can do to improve your mental health

While exercise is a proven method to reduce anxiety and improve mental health and well-being, there are several other activities you can partake in to help elevate your mood. These include:

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Australia’s theme for World Mental Health Day 2022 is “Awareness, Belonging and Connection”. Take this opportunity to analyse your mental health, identify where you are struggling and why, and hold conversations with your loved ones. It’s also an opportunity to get out there, connect with others, and partake in many exciting activities to help you learn more about mental health.

Just as exercise is good for physical health, it can also positively impact mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. In addition, exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and increase energy levels. People who exercise regularly report feeling happier and more fulfilled than those who don’t. Furthermore, exercise can help to protect against conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease. So, if you’re looking for a way to boost your mood and mental well-being, including some exercise in your daily routine.

Research has shown that exercise can have a positive effect on anxiety. One study found that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking) can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. Regular exercise is also an effective long-term treatment for anxiety. It can help to improve mood, sleep quality, and overall mental health. In addition, exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. For these reasons, it is unsurprising that many people find that exercise reduces their anxiety levels.

According to a growing body of research, exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. While the exact mechanism is not yet understood, it is thought that exercise may help to improve mood by releasing feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins and serotonin. Exercise may also have a positive impact on self-esteem, body image, and overall sense of well-being. In addition, exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality and increase energy levels, both of which can help to reduce the symptoms of depression.

Overthinking can be a major obstacle to productivity and happiness. When you find yourself stuck in a cycle of rumination, it can be difficult to break free and focus on the task at hand. However, you can do a few things to stop overthinking and get back on track. First, try to become aware of your thoughts as they happen. This will help you to recognise when you are overthinking and take steps to redirect your thoughts. Second, practice mindfulness and meditation. These practices can help you to focus on the present moment and let go of intrusive thoughts. Lastly, make time for self-care. Taking care of yourself emotionally and physically will help to reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to focus on the present moment. By following these tips, you can start to break the cycle of overthinking and live a more productive and peaceful life.

Overthinking is a common problem that can lead to stress and anxiety. If you find yourself obsessing over problems or second-guessing your decisions, you can do a few things to stop the cycle. First, try to become aware of when you are overthinking. This may sound difficult, but it’s important to catch yourself in the act to begin to break the habit. Once you’re aware of your overthinking, you can start to challenge your thoughts. Are they as bad as you think? Or are you just blowing things out of proportion? Asking yourself these questions can help to put your thoughts into perspective and stop the cycle of overthinking. Finally, try to take action instead of just thinking about things. This may mean finally making that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off or taking a class you’ve been interested in. Taking action will help to give you a sense of control and may help to reduce your overall stress levels.

First, try to focus on your breath. Slowly inhale and exhale, paying attention to the rise and fall of your chest. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to your breath. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body. Start with your feet and work your way up, paying attention to the sensation of the muscles loosening as you exhale. These techniques may take some practice, but with time they can help you to feel more relaxed in both body and mind.

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Specialist

Megan has extensive experience writing about health and life insurance in Australia. Megan has a special interest in health and wellness. She relies on her background in counselling psychology to convey the latest findings in a manner that is most beneficial to ComparingExperts readers. In every article she writes, Megan aims to uphold the standards of the Private Health Insurance Intermediaries Association (PHIAA) which ComparingExpert is part of.

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