Mental Strength

The Psychological Benefits of Exercise

The benefits of physical exercise are not limited only to the adaptations you make to your fitness, strength, or size – they also extend to your mind as well.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your daily life, then introducing regular exercise that you enjoy can provide an outlet that helps you to manage stress, enjoy life and practice mindfulness techniques.

7 Psychological Benefits of Exercise

1. Improved Sleep

Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and even sleep for longer periods with better quality. Physical activity helps you to spend more time in deep sleep, which is where the body does its recovery. Physical fatigue also contributes to feeling tired and thus helps to encourage your mind to shut down when it’s time to go to sleep.

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2. Positive Changes to Mood

Exercise boosts the production of hormones like serotonin and endorphins present in the blood, which are known to temporarily improve your mental state by making you feel well physically. Increases in serotonin can be chronic as a result of regular exercise, which can reduce symptoms of depression long term.

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3. Increased Confidence

Along with feeling more energised and other improvements in your mood, exercise can help to boost your confidence as you feel more autonomous and your self-esteem improves. Feeling fit and strong can help improve feelings of self-efficacy and physical exercise can help to manage your body-composition which may result in you having a more positive opinion of your own body, boosting your confidence.

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4. Reduced Stress

Regular exercise increases cortisol, a stress hormone, for a short period after intense bouts of exercise. Cortisol generally has negative effects on the body and is present when life-stress is high – which can result in weight gain and poor sleep. When the body is exposed to cortisol for short periods, it adapts to the stressor, while chronic exposure results in detrimental effects.

Ultimately, regular exercise allows the body to become more tolerant of cortisol, managing it more effectively, which means that life-stress has less of a negative effect on your wellbeing.

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5. Reduced Anxiety

Exercise releases chemicals known as endorphins and other hormones like serotonin. Endorphins are produced by the body and inhibit pain signals whilst making you feel good with a sense of pleasure. Academic research shows that this can be effective for reducing the effects of anxiety and depression, and thus exercise is widely accepted as an effective method for reducing their symptoms.

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6. Increased Energy

Logically, you’d expect to be more tired if you were exercising all the time, but the opposite is true. This is because regular exercise leads to better sleep quality and your muscles being better adapted to perform – both of which result in you feeling more energetic (once you’ve recovered from the previous work out!). Making a habit of exercising regularly can also lead to other health-seeking behaviours, such as making positive changes to your diet which may also contribute to increased energy levels throughout the day.

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7. Improved Self-Esteem

Becoming more fit helps to increase feelings of self-efficacy and independence, whilst also managing your body composition. It also provides you with an outlet to work towards long-and short-term fitness goals. All of these help your mind to paint a more positive image of yourself.


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Scott Whitney

Scott Whitney

Sports Therapist and S&C Professional

Scott developed a passion for sport and performance through competing in long‐distance running and bouldering prior to attending university. Scott’s academic achievements include a BSc honours degree in Sports Therapy and an MSc degree in Strength and Conditioning. He is also a member of The Society of Sports Therapists and CIMSPA. Previously, he has worked with amateur and elite athletes, ranging from university sports teams to elite rugby league athletes and Team GB rowers. He currently works with various gyms in developing and delivering training programmes for amateur athletes and gym‐goers. While passive treatments remain in his arsenal as a Sports Therapist, Scott uses his skills to promote physical activity for combatting obesity, lower back pain and other sporting injuries, and simultaneously providing programmes for athletic development. Being a recent graduate, Scott strives to gain experience wherever possible, offering advice and sharing knowledge along the way. He believes it is important to practice what you preach, so in his spare time, Scott practices Olympic Weightlifting and enjoys being active outdoors in all weathers, although he still believes it is important to make ample time for social activities.

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