Psychological social benefts Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Psychological and social benefits of exercise

We have covered the multiple physical benefits of being physically active, but the psychological benefits are equally impactful. Regular participation in a moderate amount of physical activity will result in improved mood and emotional states.

The following are common psychological benefits gained through exercise:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress as well as an improved ability to cope with stress
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Pride in physical accomplishments
  • Increased satisfaction with oneself
  • Improved body image
  • Increased feelings of energy
  • Improved confidence in your physical abilities
  • Decreased symptoms associated with depression

How much exercise is needed to produce these effects?

Even a brief walk at a low intensity can improve your mood and energy, as well as your heart health. For longer-term benefits, you should exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes per session at moderate intensity.

Depression, anxiety and exercise

What is depression?

We all have times when our mood is low, and we’re feeling sad or miserable about life. Usually these feelings pass in due course. However, if the feelings are interfering with your life and don’t go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back over and over again for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing depression.

How can exercise help?

When you have anxiety or depression, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. However, once you become motivated, exercise can make a big difference. Exercise is often described as nature’s ‘natural anti-depressant’.

Physical activity releases ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals that may ease depression, such as neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids. It also reduces immune system chemicals that can act to worsen depression. Physical activity also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. Regular exercise for longer than 10 weeks works best for reducing depression.

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits too. Team sports and group activities help you to get more social interaction. Learning a new skill will also help to boost your confidence and help you to feel like you are doing something positive to manage your depression or anxiety.

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, make sure you talk to a close friend or family member who can support you. It is also worthwhile booking an appointment with your GP to discuss your options, as these include medication, ‘talking treatment’ (cognitive behaviour therapy) or a combination of the two.

For more information, visit Mind

Last Updated: September 8, 2016