Mental Health and Exercise – Is there a link?


Mental Health and Exercise, sounds like something you may have heard about umpteen number of times, but do we really understand the importance of it?? What is it in exercises that help in improving mental health? Are there some hormones at work or is just another money-making gimmick or the ‘in’ thing now?

There are a lot of articles out there that explain about the benefits of exercises on mental health, then why would anyone want to waste their time in one more of the same, right?

Let’s start by addressing all these doubts and problems in a more scientific yet understandable way.

What happens to your brain when you exercise or do some physical activity?

Exercise leads our body to release endorphins – which almost has the effect as morphine but unlike morphine you don’t get addicted. Sounds cool doesn’t it!!

So what do these endorphins do?
As I said they do emulate morphine, which means they help in relieving pain, reduce stress and give a general sense of wellbeing.

Are endorphins only produced when you exercise?
The answer is NO. Endorphins are produced when you have a good meal or eat chocolates a good laugh , acupuncture, sex and even while spending time outdoors in the sun.
If all these activities produce endorphins, isn’t it easier to stay at home eat good food and have lots of chocolate and maintain a good mental health?

So true, and trust me I would love to do the same, but the fact is that the best endorphins are the ones released while running/brisk walking called beta-endorphins which actually causes something called runner’s high.

Is endorphine the only hormone that improves mental health?
Actually, no there are 4 hormones that contribute to general mental health well being.

  1. Endorphine
  2. Serotonie
  3. Dopamine
  4. Oxytocin

If physical activities are done regularly over a period of time then they also help in improving serotonin and dopamine levels in the body.

With all the above information I hope mental health and exercises make sense together. There are multiple studies that show the effect of exercise on mental health and comparative studies between physically active and sedentary individuals, where obviously we can say that physical activity wins hands down.

So what are you waiting for put on your walking shoes, put on some music, and go out for a walk in the sun, have a laugh when you see something funny while on your walk and end up releasing as much feel good hormones as you can and stay healthy(both physically and mentally).

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