Fort Berthold Diabetes Program

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Justice Rabbithead  – Medical Support Assistant


Exercise is not only about personal gains and getting your body in shape. Sure, it can make you look massive like a body builder if you lift heavy, trim your waistline if you focus on cardio, or even add years to your life, but the real reason that most people workout regularly is that it gives them a big sense of wellbeing. They can sleep better at night, they feel more energetic throughout the day, they have a sharper memory, and feel more positive about themselves. It also helps with depression, anxiety, and stress. You do not have to be a fitness freak to benefit either. 

Depression and Exercise

Studies have shown that exercise can treat mild or moderate depression almost to the same level as anti-depressants, and this is a natural way without the negative side effects of medication. A study has found that 15 minutes of running a day can help to reduce risk of major depression by 26%. If you stay on a workout schedule, it has been proven to eliminate chances of depression relapse. It promotes neural growth, reduced inflammation, and increases activity patterns in the brain that promote positive thoughts and well-being. It also releases endorphins that are powerful chemicals in your brain that boost your spirit and make you feel good. Exercise also gives you time away serving as a distraction that allows you to find some time to break the cycle of negative thoughts that arise from depression. 

Exercise and Anxiety

Like with the depression aspect of exercise anxiety is also something that can be treated through exercise. When you feel anxious and feel like your anxiety is over running you go do some exercise. Unlike with depression to treat anxiety when exercising you want to focus in more on your workout. Try to notice the sensations of working out like your feet hitting the ground or the rhythm of your breathing. By having this mindfulness and focusing in on your exercise you will not only improve your physical condition faster you will also be able to interrupt all of those worries that you have running through your head. 

Exercise and Stress

When you are under stress, your body runs tense and your face, neck, and shoulders feel like they have a heavy weight on them. You may feel a tightness in your chest with a high pulse rate making you feel like you cannot relax or breathe. Exercise can be a get away from all of your stress and give you some relief. 

Any activity is better than no activity. You do not need to exercise for an hour you do not even have to exercise for 30 to 15 minutes if you do not have the time. You can start with 5-to-10-minute sessions and work your way up. The more you exercise the more energy you will have and that will have you increasing your workout lengths in no time. When exercise becomes a habit it will no longer feel like a chore, but something great you get to do every day. Start small and work your way up anything is better than the person sitting on the couch doing nothing.