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Does Exercise Improve Your Mental Health

Recently, I purchased a new pair of running shoes. As I ran along Alki Beach in Seattle, it didn’t take long before my body started to release some upper body tension (likely caused from sitting in front of the computer!), and my mind dropped its thoughts about appointments, seminars, writing projects, and the usual pile of mundane tasks. Passing runners, bikers, walkers, and inline skaters, I wondered how many of these everyday exercise enthusiasts were dedicated to the maintenance of their mental health as much as their physical health. Does exercise improve your mental health?

photo placeholder. Original ink drawing by Imei Hsu.
photo placeholder. Original ink drawing by Imei Hsu.

After a cursory look at the latest articles and studies on topic of exercise and mental health, most of the authors agree on several items. One of these items is simple: while we don’t know WHY exercise improves mental health symptoms, they all agree that exercise is beneficial in the treatment of mental health disorders and distress.

Most articles focus on the relationship of exercise to depression and anxiety. Some ways exercise can help with depression and anxiety symptoms are: