How exercise helps your mental health

For many years, ‘chill out’, ‘put your feet up’ and ‘make yourself a cuppa’ have always been the go-to pieces of advice for the statement, ‘everything feels just too much at the moment’. But, as the stigma surrounding mental health has changed drastically in recent years, we’ve learnt that this quick fix to calm any immediate anxiety is not a sustainable way of managing mental health for the long term.

We all have mental health, so making sure to take time out to care for it is just as important as looking after your physical health, which we’ve always been accustomed too. 


However your mental health might challenge you, both on the lower and higher ends of the spectrum, gentle exercise, in whatever form works for you, is a perfect way of helping to make you feel ‘better’, alongside the physical benefits it can have to your body.

All forms of exercise release chemicals called endorphins and serotonin that actually contribute to an improved mood, allowing you to escape from the immediate worries of day to day life. Exercise can also be brilliant to help you think more clearly, as movement pumps blood to the brain, improving focus and attention, a vital attribute to help with our busy day to day lives.

Alongside physical exercise, practices like yoga and meditation are a perfect way of putting your mental health as a priority, as they focus on breathing techniques to reduce anxiety, and relaxation routines to help combat a wide variety of mental health issues.

Classes at your local gym or leisure centre, DVD’s and a variety of apps and videos mean exercising and practices like yoga are so easy to attend, and particularly the latter can often be at very little or no expense at all, meaning combatting your mental health issues can be much easier than you may have initially envisaged.

Although exercise is a great way to help reduce anxiety and other mental health problems, it cannot be used as a replacement for a doctor or mental health practitioner, so if you’re finding it hard to cope with your anxiety, please make sure to reach out to a professional. Online resources are also a great way to start to help improve your mental health, with the NHS and charities such as Mind offering support for free, 24 hours, 7 days a week.


*Second image: @sarah_heap and photography by @wilkopix