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Exercise and mental health

3-minute read

Exercise has many benefits, not only for your physical health but also your mental health. In your brain, exercise stimulates chemicals that improve your mood and the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Benefits of exercise

Physical activity and exercise has many benefits. It can:

Mental health benefits of exercise

Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It can also get you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and put you in touch with other people.

If you exercise regularly, it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and help with recovery from mental health issues.

It can also improve your sleep, which is important in many different ways.

Exercise and the mind

Exercise pumps blood to the brain, which can help you to think more clearly.

It increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.

It also increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease.

How much exercise do you need?

Australian guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week. You can make up 30 minutes over the day by combining shorter 10 to 15 minute sessions.

Practising mindfulness while doing exercise also reduces your stress and improves your mental health.

If money is a worry, think about local community centres, which often have affordable exercise groups. And if you have private health insurance, you might get help for gym membership as part of a mental health care plan.

You may struggle finding motivation, or staying motivated for exercise. Think about ways you can make exercise part of your daily routine and lifestyle. Choose something you enjoy, and ask your friends or family to help motivate you and to keep you on track.

If you own a dog, take them for walks in your local area.

Combine your exercise routine with a healthy diet to boost your motivation and energy for exercise.

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Last reviewed: November 2020


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