Exercise is thought to release endorphins, opioid-like compounds naturally produced by the brain to relieve pain and induce a feeling of well-being. This is probably the basis for the so-called "runner's high." You can get the benefits of exercise with just 30 minutes of activity several times a week. This could be brisk walking or swimming. It doesn't have to be punishing to be effective. The idea is to get your heart rate up to about 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Calculate this for adults by subtracting your age from 220. The next time you're tempted to skip a workout or chance to exercise, consider these five ways that working out may improve your mental health.

Stress Reduction

Over time, exercise reduces your levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. When heart rates are up, there is a greater production of a brain chemical called norepinephrine, known to improve your mind's clarity, cognition, and mood. Exercise also serves as an important distraction, allowing you to disengage from your problems for a while, break away from negative thoughts and clear your mind. 

Increased Energy

Although it might not make sense, exercise actually increases your energy levels overall. Exercise may seem exhausting and tiring, but it actually fights fatigue. This is why cancer patients are instructed to do some kind of regular physical activity. It helps to combat the fatigue so common in those with cancer. Exercise delivers more oxygen throughout the body, improving function and boosting organ and tissue efficiency. Generally speaking, your resting heart rate, meaning how fast your heart beats when you're not exercising, will be lower the more fit you are. This is because exercise strengthens the heart muscle, reducing the effort needed to circulate blood throughout the body. You can calculate your resting heart rate by placing your index finger against your inside wrist where you can detect your pulse. Do not use your thumb to take your pulse because the thumb also has a pulse. Count the beats for 15 seconds and then multiply by four to get your resting heart rate. After a period of time of regular exercise, you will likely see this figure go down considerably. This means your heart is stronger. 

Improved Sleep

Exercise improves sleep and fights daytime drowsiness. This is because exercise increases body temperature, which calms the mind and encourages bedtime drowsiness. Exercise may also reduce dangerous sleep apnea through its benefits for weight control. Those with a normal BMI, body mass index, have a much lower chance of sleep apnea and other health conditions linked to obesity and overweight. However, it's important not to exercise too close to bedtime. Do your workout several hours before bedtime or more to avoid an increased metabolic rate when it's time to go to sleep.  Exercise may also help to regulate your brain's circadian rhythm. This is like an internal body clock keeping track of the time of day and when it's time to rest. A disrupted circadian rhythm from lack of exercise or anything else may result in insomnia. 

Improved Memory

 Exercise affects the brain, particularly the part called the hippocampus. This is where memory and learning take place. As people age, the hippocampus shrinks. This may be linked to the development of dementia. One study of 120 older adults revealed that exercise increased the size of the anterior hippocampus for the participants who exercised regularly. This was followed by improvements in spatial memory, the type of memory involved in storage and retrieval of information, such as how to get to a friend's house. In this study, exercise was linked to a reversal of age-related memory loss by about one to two years just during the study. It is unknown if improvements continued after that.

Increased Self-Esteem

The exhilaration of completing a workout instills a sense of accomplishment and pride. This boosts your self-confidence and helps with goal-setting for further workouts. Exercise may also boost self-esteem by creating a better self-image through losing weight or building muscle. Regular exercise is a great mood regulator. You may find yourself less troubled by frustration, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, and anger if you follow a regular exercise routine. Exercising close to nature, such as along the beach or a tree and flower-filled path may further boost your mood. 


 Exercise boosts both your physical and mental health. It may combat serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. It gives you a sense of purpose and achievement. The body was built to move. The mind responds to exercise with an elevation of the spirit. Anyone can begin a simple exercise plan. You don't need fancy equipment or a gym. You can begin to improve your mental health with a simple fast walk several times a week. Make sure you walk fast enough to adequately raise your heart rate. That's really all it takes to start seeing the mental benefits of exercise. Always consult with your physician before beginning any new diet or exercise program.