MuuvWell Blog

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

April 29, 2024

Exercise, beyond the benefits of being physically fit, serves as a natural bolster for mental well-being. The best news is, any type or amount of movement seems to have some benefit, from a 5 minute gentle walk, to a 45 minute strength training session. You can harness the power of movement to improve your mental health regardless of your fitness level or the time commitment you can make on any given day.

To Improve the Mind, Move the Body

Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, while simultaneously boosting mood and enhancing overall cognitive function (better word recall, improved focus, less errors when completing tasks, etc.). The release of endorphins and serotonin during exercise act as natural mood boosters. You may have heard of (or experienced) a “runner’s high” – a wave of endorphins that leave you feeling euphoric with running or other exercise. 

Exercise is a great time to get social! Whether walking with a friend, playing with your kids, joining a pickleball team, or working with a coach – exercise can be socially fulfilling. Social connection, alongside movement, reduces symptoms of depression and feelings of anxiety by boosting those happy hormones. 

Endorphins aren’t the whole story, though.

The amygdala is the area of the brain that processes emotions – especially fear, anxiety, threats, and aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, poor sleep revs up the amygdala, which makes us feel more anxious, reactive, or angry (think of a toddler who missed their nap). Exercise improves sleep quality, calming the amygdala. This gives us the ability to regulate our emotions and turn down the volume on anxiety. 

Research shows that moving forward, like walking, and allowing our eyes to process the passing world (called optic flow), also calms the amygdala. This reduces feelings of anxiety, and again, would allow for better processing and regulating of emotions. Essentially, you are building “resilience” – meaning you can better cope with challenges.

Mind – Body Connection

Consider your thoughts. If you catch your mind stuck in a cycle of worry, you might experiment with mindful movement.  Take a walk, and simply notice how your feet hit the ground, or pay attention to your breathing. Yoga, Tai Chi, and your Muuvwell Strive for Five are also great options. These actions can shift your thoughts and interrupt that cycle of worry.

As stressors hit you throughout the day, you might notice tension in your body. A stiff feeling in your neck, or a mild headache. Since our mind and body are so closely connected, releasing that tension through movement helps to send signals to our brain to relax, too.


Even short bursts of movement, like going for a quick walk, or completing a series of stretches (your Muuvwell Strive for Five), can boost mood, increase alertness, and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. A few minutes of movement can be powerful medicine for your mental health. 

Ultimately, creating a routine habit of exercise will further enhance the mental health benefits over time. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, which breaks down to about 30 minutes, about 5 days per week. Remember – this can happen in smaller blocks of time that add up through the day. Anything from dancing, mowing the lawn, running a 5k, or to going to the gym count. Start small, notice how you feel before and after, and build up over time.


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