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My Take

Mental Health and Exercise

Hi guys, today I have a simple topic but it’s one that really makes a positive difference. Making the time to exercise can be tricky…sometimes we’re super busy and it falls to the bottom of our priority list. It can also be difficult to motivate ourselves, especially when we’re feeling ‘under the weather’. The thing is, it’s exactly WHEN we feel under the weather that we perhaps need exercise the most for our mental health.

For a science-based approach, here is a segment of an article by the American Psychological Association. For the full article, see here.

Mood Enhancement:

“If you’ve ever gone for a run after a stressful day, chances are you felt better afterward. “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” Otto says. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”

But the effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate long-term depression.

Some of the evidence for that comes from broad, population-based correlation studies. “There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University.

The evidence comes from experimental studies as well. Blumenthal has explored the mood-exercise connection through a series of randomized controlled trials. In one such study, he and his colleagues assigned sedentary adults with major depressive disorder to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. After four months of treatment, Blumenthal found, patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had higher rates of remission than did the patients on the placebo. Exercise, he concluded, was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007).

Blumenthal followed up with the patients one year later. The type of treatment they received during the four-month trial didn’t predict remission a year later, he found. However, subjects who reported regular exercise at the one-year follow-up had lower depression scores than did their less active counterparts (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2010). “Exercise seems not only important for treating depression, but also in preventing relapse,” he says.”


From personal experience I can say that just knowing that I’ve exercised makes me feel better about myself throughout the day, especially if I do it early in the morning. It’s a wonderful and motivating period of the day that improves the rest of it. Even if I may be pretty unhappy with my body, the knowledge that I’m working towards self-improvement truly has a powerful impact. The beauty is that one doesn’t have to exercise 2 hours every day to experience a whole spectrum of health benefits, and by this I mean physical, mental, emotional…everything! Exercise is a form of empowerment and healthy control that we can use in our lives. Of course exercise can also become an unhealthy obsession/compulsion, but right now that’s not my focus.

Tricks for Implementing Exercise in Your Everyday Life:

  • Consistence is far more important than doing a few really intense workouts that burn you out.
  • Implementing exercise gradually, especially if you’re not accustomed to it, is a good way to start out and prevent feeling overwhelmed.
  • Exercise can be in whatever form you desire! The key is to find a physical activity that doesn’t feel like a chore. Consider hobbies, interests, new things you’ve always wanted to try, etc. Make it fun!
  • Involve others in your exercise goals; not in an unhealthy/competitive way but as a way to support and motivate each other.
  • Allow a bit of wiggle room for when you plan to exercise each day, but not TOO much. Making exercise a habit and pencilling it into your schedule can be really helpful in making sure you fit in the time for it.
  • Take breaks when you need them; it’s important to have off-days to relax and recuperate.
  • If you really don’t feel like exercising it can help to just begin…chances are you’ll be feeling better about it in just a few minutes. Plus, imagine how good you’ll feel once you’ve accomplished your goal!
  • Listen to your body; if a certain form of exercise is causing you pain perhaps it’s time to try something different. (Jogging if you have bad knees, weak ankles or shin splints for example isn’t the best idea – trust me!)
  • View the exercise portion of your day as personal self-care time…after all, it is!
  • If you don’t feel benefits right away, keep these two things in mind: Things take time, and, positive changes can occur without our noticing.

I apologize for the short article but I’m very swamped at the moment and feeling pretty overwhelmed! I hope you all have a great week and I’ll do my best to post soon! Take care!

What's YOUR take?