What Type Of Exercise Is Best For Mental Health?

What Type Of Exercise Is Best For Mental Health?

Narcissistic Personality, Opinion By Apr 19, 2024

Imagine that in Ancient Greece, 500 years before Jesus Christ walked the earth, a brilliant thinker named Thales of Miletus promoted the idea of a “sound mind, in a sound body.” In other words, he believed that taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of your muscles!

Fast forward to today. It seems we’re rediscovering this ancient wisdom. We’re finally realizing that good mental health is just as important as physical fitness. That’s why creating a well-rounded self-care routine is essential. Think of it like building your personal toolbox for a healthy life – and exercise is definitely one of the best tools you can add to optimize your mental health!

Why Does Exercise Help Mental Health?

Physical exercise offers a host of mental health benefits. Consider the sense of well-being you experience after a brisk walk. It occurs due to fascinating processes that take place in the body when we move. According to Harvard Health, like running or swimming, work like natural stress relievers.

When you’re feeling stressed, your body pumps out chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol to energize you. But too much of these can leave you feeling jittery and on edge. Aerobic exercise can help restore balance. It does this by decreasing the production of these stress chemicals. At the same time, it gets your blood flowing faster, delivering oxygen throughout your body. This oxygen boost also triggers the release of endorphins, which are like tiny feel-good messengers in your brain. Endorphins are what make you feel happy and relaxed after a good workout.

Resistence training may also reduce anxiety. Sergii Putsov, a professional athlete, coach and author of the blog Warm Body Cold Mind, explains:

“Training is one of the best ways to get yourself back to feeling the best you possibly can. Not only does it allow you to spike dopamine when you lift weights, but your confidence will naturally grow as you see your body change every day.”

In addition to the neurochemical benefits of moving your body, it can also enhance your self-confidence in a number of ways. Developing the discipline to work out consistently builds a sense of achievement and self-trust that you can use to motivate you in other areas of your life.

While regular exercise offers a range of well-documented benefits for mental health, it’s important to be mindful of its limitations. Major depressive disorder and chronic anxiety are complex conditions that often require a comprehensive treatment approach. This can include counseling, therapy, medication, and in some cases, even inpatient treatment at a mental health facility.

Exercise can be a powerful tool to elevate your mood and reduce stress hormones. However, it’s important to remember that some chronic conditions may be resistant to these benefits.

The Best Exercises For Mental Health

The good news is, there are a variety of exercises that can trigger a dopamine boost! In men, some exercises might even provide an extra testosterone kick. But, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on exercises that researchers have identified as particularly effective to get you started. Don’t worry, these exercises may seem simple, but remember, the goal is to build a sustainable routine before ramping things up.

Low-Intensity Aerobic Exercises

Starting an exercise routine doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Low-intensity aerobic exercises are an excellent entry point, requiring minimal equipment and offering exceptional flexibility. Activities like brisk walking, jogging in place, or even dance routines can be easily incorporated into your daily life, regardless of location.

Focusing on bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges allows for a simple yet effective home-based routine. As your fitness level and confidence increase, you can explore the wider variety of equipment and options available at a gym.

The key to success lies in finding activities you genuinely enjoy and can consistently integrate into your schedule. Research consistently demonstrates the significant benefits of low-intensity exercise, with just 30-35 minutes, 3-5 times a week, may be enough to help boost your confidence and improve other aspects of your life.

Outdoor Exercises

Another great way to boost your mental health is the addition of exercising outdoors. Now, you don’t need to start by running, but a brisk walk should be enough to help you see some results in a couple of weeks. Not only does it help you manage your weight, but it also gets the blood flowing throughout the body.

As you become more comfortable with walking, you can slowly scale this into a slight jog, or even add some intense running into the mix. The overall goal is to make sure that you spike your release of dopamine, which should eventually allow you to see incredible improvements. It also helps to make you sleep better.

Group Exercises

Feeling stressed, isolated, or lacking motivation? Group exercise might be the surprising answer you’ve been looking for. Beyond the well-documented physical benefits, group workouts offer a powerful boost to your mental well-being. The social connection you forge with fellow fitness aficionados counteracts loneliness, a growing epidemic in our increasingly digital world. Sharing a workout experience fosters a sense of camaraderie and belonging, leaving you feeling more connected and supported. Plus, the group atmosphere naturally injects a dose of fun into your fitness routine, replacing gym anxiety with laughter and shared encouragement.

This social aspect also works wonders for motivation. Working out alongside others creates a sense of accountability. Seeing others push themselves can inspire you to do the same, and vice versa. Clapping for one another after a challenging set, or fist bumping to celebrate milestones achieved together create a sense of connection. This supportive environment keeps you coming back for more, giving you a sense of accomplishment and a commitment to your overall well-being.

Strength Training

Pumping iron isn’t just about building bulging biceps. Strength training can be a surprising mental health powerhouse. Each rep you conquer becomes a tiny victory, chipping away at stress and self-doubt. Witnessing your body grow stronger fosters a sense of empowerment and resilience. Suddenly, that looming deadline or challenging project doesn’t seem so daunting – you’ve already tackled physical hurdles, and you know you have the inner strength to overcome mental ones too. This newfound confidence spills over into other areas of your life, leaving you feeling more capable and ready to face whatever challenges come your way.

Strength training also works its magic on your mood. The physical exertion triggers the release of endorphins, your brain’s natural feel-good chemicals. These endorphins act like tiny stress relievers, washing away anxieties and leaving you feeling more positive and optimistic. Plus, the focus and determination required during a strength training session act as a form of mental meditation, temporarily pushing worries aside and allowing you to be completely present in the moment. This mental break can be incredibly powerful, leaving you feeling refreshed and clear-headed when you return to your daily grind.


The science is clear: exercise isn’t just about physical well-being; it also helps boost mental health. There are many different ways to get started with moving your body. A commitment to regular exercise could potentially transform your state of mind. Moreover, exploring different types of exercise and discovering which ones are best suited to your wants and needs is both fun and challenging. If you need support building up the motivation to make time for your health, book a free consultation on our coaching page to kick off your wellness journey.


Manya Wakefield is a recovery coach specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and coercive trauma. Her expertise has been featured in publications such as Newsweek, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post. In 2019, she launched the social impact platform Narcissistic Abuse Rehab, building a global audience through human rights advocacy. The same year, she published the book ‘Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship,’ which is used in domestic violence recovery groups around the world. In 2020, Manya developed The Coercive Control Legislation Global Database. She is also the host of The Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon.