The power of regular exercise for mental health

The Transformative Power of Regular Exercise for Mental Health

In today’s fast-paced world, juggling the demands of everyday life can take a toll on our mental health. For those struggling with their mental health, finding effective ways to cope and improve their well-being is essential. One such powerful tool that often goes underappreciated is regular exercise.

For example, a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, the research also showed that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

Here are more compelling reasons why people with mental health issues should consider incorporating regular exercise into their daily routines:

Mood Regulation

Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones. These natural chemicals help improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Even a short workout can lead to noticeable mood enhancement.

Stress Reduction

Physical activity can serve as a natural stress reliever. It helps reduce the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the body. Regular exercise allows individuals to manage stress more effectively and build resilience to life’s challenges.

Increased Self-Esteem

Achieving fitness goals, no matter how small, can boost self-esteem and self-confidence. This sense of accomplishment can counter negative self-perceptions that often accompany mental health issues.

Enhanced Sleep Quality

Many individuals with mental health issues struggle with sleep disturbances. Regular exercise can promote better sleep patterns, leading to improved rest, increased energy levels, and enhanced cognitive function.

Social Interaction

Engaging in group exercise classes or team sports can provide opportunities for social interaction and connection. Building a supportive network can combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are common in mental health struggles.

Brain Health

Exercise has been shown to enhance cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline. It can help sharpen focus, improve memory, and increase brain health, providing a mental boost.

Routine and Structure

Establishing a regular exercise routine can introduce structure and discipline into one’s life. This can be beneficial for individuals dealing with conditions like depression, where daily routines may be disrupted.

Natural Coping Mechanism

Instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse, individuals with mental health issues can replace these habits with exercise, offering a healthier way to manage emotional distress.


Taking control of one’s physical health through exercise can create a sense of empowerment and control over one’s life, even when dealing with mental health challenges.

Long-Term Well Being

Regular exercise isn’t just about immediate relief; it contributes to long-term mental well-being. Over time, it can reduce the risk of mental health relapses and improve quality of life.

It’s important to note that while exercise can be a valuable component of a holistic approach to mental health, it should not be considered a sole treatment. Consultation with mental health professionals, therapy, and medication when prescribed remain essential parts of managing mental health conditions.

I believe regular exercise can be a transformative step toward improved mental health. I am a walking example of that! Whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, weightlifting (one of my favorites), cycling (my sport!) or any physical activity you enjoy. The benefits are clear: a brighter mood, reduced stress, enhanced self-esteem, and an overall better quality of life await those who make exercise a regular part of their routine.

About Shari Corbitt

Shari Corbitt is a licensed psychologist in California and specialist in mental health, addiction, eating disorders, chronic pain relief, and marijuana psychosis. Dr. Corbitt was trained at Yeshiva University in New York City and relocated to California in 2002 to pursue her interests in holistic and complementary treatment modalities. She spent five years as the Director of Human Services on the Rincon Indian Reservation at the Indian Health Council in Pauma Valley, CA. Later, she served as the Clinical Director at Sierra Tucson in Tucson, AZ (2006-2009) and the Vice President of Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu, CA (2009-2011). Dr. Corbitt founded Awakenings Treatment Center to provide cutting edge treatment for individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders, as well as related emotional difficulties. Optimal wellness is the goal for every client. Dr. Corbitt lives in gratitude each day for her own recovery, which she enjoys one day at a time.