Exercise and Mental Health


It’s common to hear that exercise and mental health are closely related and that exercise is good for mental health, but you may be wondering why that’s the case. Whether you’re dealing with a diagnosed mental health condition or simply going through a tough time with depression or anxiety, understanding the mental benefits of exercise is important. Just finding ways to implement small changes can be a powerful tool to improve your mental health and overall well-being.

Taking the first step towards mental health recovery can be daunting, which is why our physiotherapist Brisbane team are here to help you get started. Whether you need an exercise plan formulated for you, or assistance dealing with a condition or injury, Pivotal Motion are here to help. Book an appointment online or give us a call on 07 3352 5116 today. 

Two ladies doing yoga in a field | Featured Image for the Exercise and Mental Health Page by Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy

Mental Benefits of Exercise

Releasing endorphins

When we exercise, we experience one of the most powerful emotional benefits of exercise, which is the release of natural brain chemicals. These hormones, known as endorphins, are produced to help alleviate pain and stress, enhance our sense of well-being, as well as improve our mood.

Establishing healthy coping mechanisms

Engaging in beneficial activities like exercise to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy way of coping. Conversely, unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol consumption or smoking can exacerbate symptoms or even revert the mental benefits of exercise you may be beginning to see.

Keeping Busy

Doing something productive with your time such as exercise can help you get away from negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety. Whether you’re walking the dog through the park or putting in a big gym session, finding simple ways to keep your mind busy and not focused on negatives is one of the great emotional benefits of exercise.

Gaining confidence

Overcoming obstacles and meeting exercise goals can boost your self-confidence and make you feel accomplished. Through consistent exercise efforts, regardless of if they are big or small, you will begin to see the emotional benefits of exercise, including a stronger confidence in yourself when facing personal challenges in the future.

How much is enough?

Studies have shown a strong link between exercise and mental health, so much so that engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week can help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even smaller amounts of exercise, such as 10-15 minutes, can make a positive difference. It is important to stick with an exercise routine over the long term to experience the positive relationship between physical activity and mental health improvements. Finding enjoyable activities to incorporate into your daily routine can be a manageable way to start to reap the mental health benefits of exercise.

How do I start?

Starting and sticking with an exercise routine or regular exercise can be a challenging and daunting experience for anyone, however for those struggling with mental health, those challenges can feel amplified. These small steps can help you better manage your relationship with physical activity and mental health:

Find what you like to do

Finding out what modality of exercise you’re most likely to enjoy will help you to stick through it for the long run and are likely to have greater positive impacts on your mood.

Set realistic goals

Meeting exercise goals (particularly mental health goals) can be a slow process. Think realistically about what you may be able to achieve and begin gradually. An Exercise Physiologist can tailor for you an individualised plan that meets your needs and abilities and sets you up for success.

Identify your barriers

Try and think about what has stopped you from being physically active in the past. For example, if you do not enjoy exercising on your own, consider joining a group exercise class.

Prepare for setbacks

Setbacks can be disappointing but are a part of life. Don’t let small obstacles and setbacks discourage you from reaching your goals. If you skip exercise one, two or even three days, just try to refocus, and remember tomorrow is a new day!

Lady doing a chinup | Featured Image for the Exercise and Mental Health Page by Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy
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Considerations for Exercise and Mental Health


  1. Exercise, although very beneficial, is not a replacement for seeing mental health professionals such as a counsellor or psychologist.
  2. Check with an Exercise Physiologist before starting a new exercise plan – making sure you’re exercising right and preventing injury is a great start to your journey.
  3. If you have any co-existing conditions such as an injury, diabetes, or heart condition, consult with an Exercise Physiologist and they will provide you with an individualised program tailored to your needs. The goal is always better health in all areas!
  4. Please contact an Australian well-being and support organisations such as Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) or Lifeline (13 11 14) if you are struggling with significant depression or anxiety or are in crisis.

Talk To Pivotal Motion About Your Exercise and Mental Health

If you’re ready to start taking steps towards improving your mental health, the Brisbane exercise physiologist team from Pivotal Motion are available for you. Regardless of your experience, we can carefully formulate an exercise plan designed to improve physical and metal wellbeing. Book an appointment online or give us a call on 07 3352 5116 today. 

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