Book an appointment Feather-communication-phone
exercise-for-mental-health

Blog Mental Health

The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

Read more posts by this author.

December 29, 2020 Read Time - 6 minutes

Is Exercise Good For Mental Health?

We all know that exercise is good for our physical health, and you’ve probably heard it has mental health benefits too, but how exactly does exercise help with mental health and to what extent?

Let’s take a closer look at the connection between exercise and mental health as well as how to start an exercise program.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

How Much Does Exercise Help Mental Health?

It’s difficult to put a number on how much exercise helps mental health, especially since results will vary from person to person and depend on a variety of factors. However, one study showed that people who exercised experienced roughly half as many days of poor mental health compared to those who didn’t exercise.

How Does a Lack of Exercise Affect Your Mental Health?

Exercise has many physical and psychological benefits, including the release of endorphins – feel-good hormones – in your brain. Without these benefits, your mental health may be negatively impacted. Additionally, a lack of exercise can lead to obesity, low self-confidence, and health concerns that may further impact your mental health.

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Get Mental Health Benefits?

Research suggests that 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week can significantly improve your mental health. Shorter amounts of time do still seem to offer benefits, however, and it’s always a good idea to start slow and build up to longer workouts.

How to Start Exercising to Improve Mental Health

You should talk to a doctor before starting an exercise program, but here are a few quick tips:

  • Start slow and work your way up. Working out too hard or too long when you’re first getting started can make you feel sore and not want to try again.
  • Listen to your body. If you’re dizzy, nauseous, in pain, or unable to catch your breath, stop what you’re doing. It’s also OK to take a few days off.
  • Break your exercise up into smaller chunks throughout the day. If 30 minutes at once is too much, try doing 10 minutes three times a day.
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

How to Exercise for Free

Not everybody can afford a costly gym membership, but that shouldn’t stop you from starting to exercise. Here are some great at-home workouts and other ways to exercise that don’t cost anything:

  • Walk or hike. Whether it’s around your neighborhood, in a park, or in the wilderness, walking is a great form of exercise that doesn’t cost anything.
  • Watch YouTube videos. There are tons of videos available for many kinds of workouts you can do from home, including yoga and bodyweight workouts.
  • Try an app. While some apps may require in-app purchases, there are many free apps available to help you start exercising and keep track of your fitness levels.
  • Find a local jogging track. Many middle and high schools may allow you to hit the track if you like to jog but want to avoid your neighborhood streets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Exercise for Mental Health?

There isn’t any consistent evidence yet on what the best exercise for mental health is. Aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up, releases endorphins, and has many physical benefits. The stress-relieving benefits of yoga can help ease the mind of somebody struggling with stress, depression, or anxiety. The main key is to find something you enjoy and stick to it.

How Can Exercise Help Depression?

There are many different ways exercise can help depression:

  • High-intensity exercise releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals in your brain that cause the “runner’s high”
  • Low-intensity exercise sustained over time helps nerve cells grow and make new connections, which improves your brain function and can improve your mood
  • Exercise can improve your sleep, which can help you feel better
  • Since exercise is also good for your physical health, it can contribute to an overall improved sense of well-being

How Can Exercise Help Anxiety?

Here are some of the ways that exercise can help ease symptoms of anxiety:

  • Exercise can distract you from the thing you’re anxious about
  • It changes the chemistry and structure of your brain in ways that change how you react to threats
  • Exercise helps relieve muscle tension, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety

How Can Exercise Help Stress?

A few ways that exercise can help stress include:

  • The release of endorphins can help you feel more relaxed and less stressed
  • It can improve your mood and help you sleep better
  • Not only does exercise itself help reduce stress, but it also helps build up your body to better prepare it to handle stress in the future
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Talk to a Doctor or Therapist about Exercise and Mental Health

It’s always a good idea to talk to a doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. Skip the trip to the doctor’s office with an online appointment from PlushCare. You can have a phone or video appointment with a licensed doctor, who can discuss your health history and help you come up with a safe exercise plan.

If you would like to explore medication options for depression or anxiety, our trusted doctors can help with that, too. If the doctor thinks you would benefit from an antidepressant or non-narcotic anxiety medication, they can electronically send a prescription to your local pharmacy. Note that PlushCare doctors can’t prescribe controlled substances like Xanax and Valium.

To schedule an appointment with a doctor, click here.

Want to try therapy to help improve your mental health? PlushCare offers online therapy appointments for $169 per session or $149 for weekly sessions. You get a 45-minute video appointment with a licensed therapist and access to our doctors.

You can start with a free 15-minute consultation, where you’ll talk with one of our therapists to see if they are a good fit. Set up the free consult by calling 1-800-221-5140 or emailing [email protected]

Ready to go ahead and make an appointment for online therapy? Click here or call (888) 798-0620.


Read More About Exercise and Mental Health


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

PubMed. Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study. Accessed on December 22, 2020 at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30099000/

Mayo Clinic. Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms. Accessed on December 22, 2020 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

American Psychological Association. The Exercise Effect. Accessed on December 22, 2020 at https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

Our commitment to you.

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

  • right Tick Image

    Research from sources you can trust

  • right Tick Image

    Medical reviews by field experts

  • right Tick Image

    Frequent content updates

More to learn.

CBT for Insomnia

CBT for Insomnia

CBT for Insomnia: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Sleep Problems Millions of people struggle with insomnia, and medication is not always…

Jennifer Nelson 5 minutes
How to Deal With Anxiety

How to Deal With Anxiety

Dealing with Anxiety Feeling anxious is something we all experience to some degree throughout our lives. However, when those anxious…

Leah McCabe 6 minutes
Can You Get Propranolol Online?

Can You Get Propranolol Online?

Can You Get a Propranolol Prescription Online? Yes, you can buy Propranolol online after an online consultation with a doctor….

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse 6 minutes