Exercise Benefits on Mental Health | Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy
by Shawni Wills, COTA/L

General knowledge tells us that exercise improves our overall physical health and body function. However, are you aware exercise also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, boosts your mood and can be an effective tool when dealing with mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and stress?

Exercise promotes changes in the brain. These changes include new activity patters, neural growth, reduced inflammation and the release of chemicals in the brain, called endorphins and serotonin causing relief of tension and stress within the body as well as promote an elevation in mood and focus.


Participation in aerobic exercise, meaning cardiovascular conditioning (walking, running, biking, swimming, dancing etc.) has been shown to elevate and stabilize mood, decrease overall levels of tension, improve sleep, and one’s self-esteem. Performing as little as 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Regularly participating in moderate amounts of aerobic exercise will result in longer lasting effects.

Reduce Stress

Common symptoms of stress are muscle tension, headaches and insomnia. Exercise produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers reducing tension in muscles and improving the ability to sleep. When the body feels better, so does the mind.

Combat Depression

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter. As previously stated, it promotes many changes in the brain including releasing endorphins that energize your spirits and improve self- esteem and mood. Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication, without the side-effects. Studies suggest that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Studies also suggest that regular activity 3-5 days per week for 30-60 minutes can prevent relapse.

Increase Attentiveness

Exercising regularly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Physical activity increases the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. These chemicals affect and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. This works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

No matter your age or ability, exercise is a great tool to improve your physical and mental health. Powerful chemicals are released to the brain relieving stress, improving memory, focus, sleep and boosting overall mood. Any amount of physical activity results in positive changes to the brain. Exercising 30-60 minutes 3-5 times per week is a powerful tool when dealing with mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and stress.

If you’re experiencing pain when trying to exercise please reach out to one of the movement experts at Kinetic Edge Physical therapy and request an appointment today!

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