How Exercise Improves Mood

You may have noticed that purposeful movement like a walk around the neighborhood, riding bikes with family, or playing tennis with a friend can lift your mood, clear your head, or provide a boost in energy. Have you ever wondered why that is? The benefits of exercise for physical health are widely talked about. But how does exercise benefit mental health? While a lot is still unknown, experts agree that it’s likely a combination of psychological and biological factors. Let’s dive into some of these!


  • Distraction. It’s human nature to dwell on problems. But it’s important to find activities that distract you from worrying. Exercise serves as a great time-out from your troubles.

  • Social interaction. Whether it’s a yoga class, a walk with the family, or a game of pickleball, there are several forms of exercise that can provide social connections. These interactions can satisfy our need to belong and provide a positive, mood-enhancing experience.

  • Self-esteem. Regular exercise can improve self-esteem through increases in strength, improvements in fitness level, or changes in physical appearance. Exercise can even improve body image without any physical changes to your body.

  • Mastering a skill. It can feel amazing to be able to walk for 20 minutes when before, five minutes left you winded. Or to nail a yoga pose that seemed impossible when you first started yoga. Being able to accomplish something with less effort than before demonstrates what your body is capable of. This can help you build confidence in what you can do, which translates to other aspects of your life.


  • Increased blood flow and oxygen. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain. This aids in the development of new blood vessels and helps grow a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which regulates emotions and stress.

  • Release of feel-good brain chemicals. Exercise releases dopamine and serotonin, which support good mental health. Dopamine regulates mood as well as pleasure, helping us find things more joyful and rewarding. Serotonin also helps to regulate mood and promotes good sleep.

  • Anti-inflammatory effects. Depression has been linked to chronic inflammation, and regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation over time.

Despite all it can do for our mental health, exercise is not easy. But it does promote a positive cycle of events. Exercise improves mental health, and good mental health makes it easier to exercise. While even one bout of exercise can be beneficial, establishing a habit will provide the most benefits. If you need help building an exercise habit, remember that your Hinge Health coach is there to help with this!

Key Takeaways

  1. Exercise promotes good mental health, and improved mental health makes it easier to exercise.

  2. There are several psychological and biological reasons that exercise is good for mental health.

  3. A single bout of exercise can help improve mood. But to reap the best results, it’s better to work toward a regular movement routine.


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