Exercise and mental health

Get a free consultation

Health Assured team

18 April 2024

It’s no surprise that exercise has a positive effect on overall health, including mental wellbeing.

According to the UCLA, on average people experience 3.4 poor mental health days a month, but this figure dropped significantly by 40% among those who exercise regularly.

Exercising regularly supports better overall wellbeing, promoting sleep improvement, a boost in natural energy levels, relieves tension, encourages feelings of relaxation, and eases negative emotions, such as anger and frustration.

When we exercise, we release a chemical called endorphins that makes you feel good, boosting mental health and overall wellbeing. Dubbed the brains natural pain reliever by Harvard Health, endorphins relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. Endorphins commonly are released through activities, such as meditation, listening to music, and exercise.

Mental health benefits of exercise

Exercise is extremely beneficial in promoting a healthier and happier life. Being active can provide short and long-term relief and solutions for many different mental health challenges, such as stress, depression, and anxiety.


When a person is feeling stressed, their body releases adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that kick start your heart and brain when a problem arises. This can also be referred to as the fight-or-flight response. As a result of this, we may feel tense, experience a tightness in the chest area, and pain, such as back pain and headaches. Exercise lowers levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the body, alleviating the feeling of being stressed and focusing the individual’s energy away from stressful triggers.


Taking part in regular exercise is great for alleviating symptoms of depression. Being active releases endorphins, which are hormones that naturally reduces your perception of pain, relaxes the muscles and body, and generates overall positive feelings.

Being active can act as a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings, promotes self-confidence, and boosts self-esteem, offsetting common challenges people face with depression.


Like stress, anxiety can leave a person feeling tense all over the body. Fortunately, being regularly active can offset tense feelings. Movement in the body decreases muscle tension and therefore making us feel a boost in relaxation and ease.

 For example, yoga increases blood flow through to the muscles and thus protecting them from over tension.

By exercising regularly, individuals with anxiety may find solitude in the distraction exercise provides, leaving little room for catastrophic thinking, having a sense of impending danger, and overthinking.


Often, people who experience ADHD have less dopamine in their brain, meaning they have less feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. Exercise provides the brain with a hit of endorphins and dopamine, improving mood, concentration, and energy levels- especially important for those with ADHD.

Individuals with ADHD may experience a delay in developing executive function, such as difficulty with self-regulation, impulse control, and time management. Mild levels of exercise is known to contribute to healthier and enhanced performing executive function.

How to get more exercise into my routine

Staying active can sometimes be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.

In it’s simple terms, exercise means physical movements in the body that enhances or supports overall fitness and wellbeing. These movements don’t need to be physically demanding or discouraging, going for a walk to the shop, walking your dog, or dancing in your living room to your favourite song could count towards your daily active goal.

  1. Find exercise that you enjoy

There is nothing worse than forcing yourself to do something that you hate, especially if you already find getting active daunting.

If you find a sport or activity that you enjoy doing, getting your daily exercise goal in might not be so difficult and it won’t feel like such a struggle to get going.

  1. Get friend’s involved

The best way to stay accountable is by getting someone else involved. Find a trusted person who you can get active with, maybe you go for a short daily walk, or you could try a two-person sport, such as tennis, squash, or badminton.

Having a partner (or people) involved in your physical activities is a great way to keep yourself motivated and accountable. You are less likely to cancel if someone else is involved and having someone there is a great motivator to keep going, even when you want to quit.

  1. Take the stairs

Keep it simple by swapping out lifts and escalators for the stairs. You may be inclined to take the easy way to go up, however, if you take the stairs, you are increasing your daily step count through one very simple lifestyle switch. Taking the stairs is a lower impact cardio which means it might not be as physically active as going for a run, but it’s much easier on the joints, easy to remember, and great for beginners.

  1. Clean your space

When we think of cleaning, exercise isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, we forget that cleaning uses many body movements and can keep you active without realising it.

According to research, cleaning low spaces and floors can burn around 4 calories per minute. This may not look like much but if you add them all up it can make the world of difference. If you needed another reason to clean, let it be this one!

  1. Walk everywhere

If you have an opportunity to walk somewhere, do it. Swapping out cars, public transport, and other means of transport for walking will get you active without you even realising. Like taking the stairs, this is a conscious effort that can become second nature and part of your daily life very quickly and simply.

Instead of taking a taxi, why not walk home? Thinking of driving to your friend’s house? Leave a little earlier and walk. Simple switches to lifestyle can build up to a massive difference in your active levels and thus mental wellbeing.

Support your employees with an EAP

With a Health Assured Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), we can offer you practical advice and support when it comes to dealing with workplace stress and anxiety issues.

Our EAP service provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and at home. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support your employees' mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.


Find out more about EAPs


Make your enquiry

Please complete the form below and we'll be in touch to answer your enquiry

Book a place on this workshop

Get a free consultation

Please complete the form and we'll be in touch to schedule your free consultation

An error occurred

We appologise but an error has occurred submitting your form. Please try again.

Mindful Employer
Stonewall Diversity Champion
Disability Confident Employer
bacp Accredited Service
International EAP Association
National Suicide Prevention Alliance
The Workplace Wellbeing Charter
Mental Health at Work
Cyber Essentials Plus
Investors in People Silver 2022
Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse
The Prince's Responsible Business Network
SEQOHS Accredited
helplines partnership