The Exercise Effect: How Physical Health Boosts Mental State

Embarking on a journey for physical wellness isn't just about sculpting a chiselled physique or chasing the next fitness milestone. It's about nurturing the intimate connection between physical health and mental well-being. Dive into four compelling ways your physical health choices can create ripples of positivity in your mental landscape.

Aug 2023

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The correlation between good mental health and physical health have long been studied and has been shown to have an abundance of benefits. Below are 4 ways in which looking after your physical health will consequently benefit your mental health.

1. Exercise

There is a direct link between exercise and mental health, and for a multitude of reasons. Exercise releases dopamine which plays a huge part in mood regulation. Have you ever noticed how good you feel AFTER a workout? This is where the term 'runners high' originated. It's not always enjoyable during the workout but a sense of accomplishment combined with the release of dopamine has a powerful effect. Those who partake in regular exercise are more likely to be generally happier people.

Exercise also burns calories. This means that if you exercise, you are more likely to have a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index). Having a healthier BMI often means that you will look better and feel better. Obesity and depression have been shown to be commonly related. The relationship between these conditions is bidirectional; the presence of one increases the risk for developing the other - managing one condition may consequently positively impact the other.

Exercise Tip: Find a physical activity that you actually enjoy doing. This will increase your likeliness of exercising on a regular basis.

2. Nutrition

Your nutrition is ultimately the most important factor. What you put in your body determines how you feel, how you look, how much energy you have as well as your moods. Different foods have the ability to affect us in different ways - for example, carbs will give us energy and protein will keep us full. Eating a well balanced diet will ensure body composition levels stay in check and self esteem is likely to be higher. Fruit and vegetables also contain an abundance of micro-nutrients; vitamins and minerals have a large effect on brain function and mood regulation.

Nutrition Tip: Do most of your grocery shopping on the outside of the supermarket e.g. fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat and dairy.

3. Sleep

Getting a good nights sleep has a lot more of an impact on our lives than you may expect. During sleep, many important functions occur. Cortisol levels drop (stress hormone), your parasympathetic nervous system takes over (rest and digest as oppose to fight or flight), and your memories from the day before are processed and stored. Poor sleep quality and depression have been shown to be linked in a number of studies. Often, improving one of these improves the other. The Harvard Mental Health Newsletter states that “Once viewed only as symptoms, sleep problems may actually contribute to psychiatric disorders”. People who sleep poorly are much more likely to develop significant mental illness, including depression and anxiety, than those who sleep well.

Sleep Tip: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You will be more likely to fall asleep quicker - our bodies love routine.  

4. Hydration

The more water we have in our bodies, the better. This applies in all contexts. Our bodies need water for survival and all systems in our bodies run more effectively when we are properly hydrated. Have at least 2.5L per day for optimum functionality. Dehydration can cause mood swings, headaches and affect our ability to concentrate. Our brains are made up of about 75% water. When slight dehydration occurs blood flow and circulation will be lower, leaving less oxygen  travelling to all parts of the body, including the brain. As dehydration increases, cognitive function is further impaired.

Hydration Tip: Carry a water bottle with you to increase likeliness of drinking more water throughout the day.

Exercise often. Eat fruit and vegetables daily. Prioritise sleep. Drink water. Look after yourself. Your mental (and physical) health will thank you for it.

Ashlee Maccetta is an online Personal Trainer & Coach who specialises in nutrition, fitness, mindset and habits. She has a passion for encouraging, educating and empowering those around her. For more information or for coaching enquiries, check out her Instagram @fitbyash_ or

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