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7 Mental Benefits of Fitness

Being fit has physical benefits AND so much more! Begin fit also means being mentally strong. jillconyers.com

When I think of exercise I usually think of the physical benefits first. What about the mental benefits?

We’ve all seen the the popular RUNNING IS CHEAPER THAN THERAPY, right. It’s true and the same can be said for fitness in general.

I’ve often mentioned my dream job of combining my career with my passion for health and fitness. This is why:

7 Mental Benefits of Fitness

  1. You feel better. Exercise releases endorphins giving you a positive attitude and a general feeling of happiness.
  2. Builds your confidence. After a run or workout you can’t help but feel proud of your accomplishment. Imagine experiencing that feeling many times over the course of a week of workouts.
  3. You have more brain power. Thinking about things like coordination while exercising challenges your brain which helps make new brain cells and establishes new connections.
  4. Builds self discipline. It takes discipline to exercise regularly and that skill carries over into many areas of life.
  5. Reduces stress levels. Exercise increases levels of soothing brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
  6. You sleep better. A good night’s sleep and being well rested makes everything easier. Your mind is more alert and difficult or stressful situations have less of a negative affect.
  7. Improves memory and thinking skills. Researched by Harvard Medical School, aerobic exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.

The benefits are supported by research and personal experience. The American Psychological Association refers to it as the exercise effect.

I am by no means dismissing traditional treatments of mental health and you should always consult with your health care provider, but doesn’t it make sense that a combination of treatment approaches including exercise would be most beneficial?

Have you experienced any or all of the benefits? What specific exercise gives you the most mental benefit?

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41 Comments

  1. Stress reduction is the biggest one for me. Running is the best although really anything that gets my heart rate up like swimming, cross country skiing and cycling.

  2. I love pumping iron and it does all of the above. I may wake up not wanting to be bothered but after a good workout session I am happy I did it. I have never had a regretful workout EVER!!!

  3. Running is my go to for mental benefits…I find a lot of peace on the pavement. I’m hoping to tackle one tomorrow morning with no music. Just me and the road. I want to kick off the day and the weekend on the right foot!

  4. Definitely agreeing with these. A week without exercise – or even just a few days of forced rest – and I’m significantly more stressed and losing my overall mental balance. Running also aids by giving me a huge boost of creativity. There’s nothing like a long run to get my thoughts flowing.

  5. I agree with all of these reasons! Especially the one about building self discipline as well as reducing stress. I have found since starting exercise when I put my mind to it, it is easier to not procrastinate in other areas of my life.

  6. I think those mental benefits are sometimes even more evident when we have times we can’t workout. I know that after almost 2 weeks of very little training I’m going to need to find some type of therapy soon!!!

  7. So agree! A run can truly make me feel better whenever I am feeling down and stressed.

  8. This is so true! I didn’t start thinking about the mental benefits of exercising until lately. It really helps with stress and leaves me feeling like my problems aren’t as big as I thought they were before my workout. I like that it gives me a new prospective and allows me some time to take care of just me for a chance during my day!

  9. You hit the nail on the head. YES to all 7. And there is also better SEX that we shy girls dont’ mention! hahaha

  10. Madelyn Moon says:

    Couldn’t agree more, my dear!

  11. Oh fitness is all about the mental hygiene for me. I couldn’t live without it!

  12. Absolutely on all of them! Running is my outlet and place to gather thoughts and make sense of things. Even without “training” just being out there and moving is uplifting.

  13. Larisa @0to26point2 says:

    this is so true. I love swimming, so it is my outlet. Running is close after. SO excited to see you next weekend:)

  14. Yes, yes, yes! Exercise truly is my mental release. I remember when my oldest son was only 3 or 4 years old, I had a really stressful afternoon, and he turned to me and said “mommy, you need to go for a run!” haha 😉

  15. I love how a long walk can lower my stress levels! Great list!

  16. It really is cheaper than therapy! I find when I don’t exercise I get cranky 😉

  17. So true! the physical benefits are just the tip of the iceberg.

  18. I absolutely agree!!! Exercise clears my head and makes me less stressed. The few times In my life where I have been unable to work out due to medical issues, I have felt a HUGE difference. It makes me even more grateful of when I can workout.

  19. I feel MUCH better about myself after a workout. It changes my whole mindset, which is why I enjoy working out in the morning if I can. It also sets the stage for better decisions (aka – not eating junk) the rest of the day!

  20. Absolutely agree, Jill!! Running gives me the biggest exercise “high” and I just love the feelings after. However, anything that I am moving and doing what I love gives me those reactions. Last night, I was in a bad mood from being at the drs for an hour and a half and rushing to get to my class at the gym. I wanted no parts of teaching, but at soon as I started, and once I finished, I was in a great mood! I was so glad I had to go teach and got those muscles pumping.

  21. PS. also wondering, WHICH size of the fitmark bag do you recommend? I am torn between The Box and The Box Large. I want it to use to take with me places, when I am eating dinner, or lunch, and have quite a few tupperware containers. I own the Isobag but that is HUGE to bring into a restaurant and not very conspicuous… 🙂

    1. Hi Amber, sorry I didn’t see this sooner. Did you already decide? I have both and use The Box most often but when I need more room I’m happy I have the Box Large. Not much help am I lol

      Let me know what you decide and how you like it.

  22. I’ve spoke time and time again about how much running and working out has helped me with my depression and anxiety. I don’t know what I would do without it!

  23. Yes! I think mental benefits are some of the best parts! I definitely agree about the mental aspect too, I think it keeps your mind clear and sharp. The only one I am not sure about myself is sleep, for some reason I am an awful sleeper…..even when I am exhausted from a 20 mile run!

    1. 20 mile run and you don’t sleep soundly? Wow! I sleep like a baby especially after a run.

  24. Going to the gym, simply put makes me happy! I used to feel the need to be soaked in sweat to consider a workout “good” and it needed to involve cardio, but since my injury, ANY type of workout at the gym, where I can get out of the house, get my groove on to some good jams and be in my element leaves me stress free and in a better mood 🙂 as for the memory thing, well still waiting for that to work for me, my memory is AWFUL

    1. Same here Amber. I used to think if I can’t run 5 or more miles it’s not worth lacing up. No more my friend. WYCWYC and every mile counts!

  25. I’m a true believer in this! If I didn’t run I wouldn’t be nearly as creative, patient, strong and relaxed. It does all that and more. I swear, if more people ran, the world would be a happier (and healthier) place! Forget Disney World, we need Runner’s World…like and actual magical place filled with the gear of your dreams and races every hour on the hour 🙂

  26. Running helps with all of those! Yoga is definitely an added plus. I am not very good at it but I can see the changes week over week and it makes me feel like super woman! and I definitely sleep like a rock!

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