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How Exercise Helps with Anxiety and Weight Loss

Three diverse women laughing and exercising outdoors.
In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, where deadlines loom large and responsibilities pile up, taking care of our mental health often takes a backseat. However, despite the chaos, there’s a simple solution that helps energizes the body but also nurtures the mind – exercise. Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces stress, enhances cognitive function and helps you lose weight. Beyond the health benefits, the sense of accomplishment and improved self-esteem that come with a consistent exercise routine contribute to a positive mental outlook. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a heart-pumping workout, or a gentle yoga session, the simple act of moving our bodies has the extraordinary ability to uplift our spirits, clear our minds, and foster a lasting sense of well-being.

Which exercise is good for mental health?

Various forms of exercise can positively impact mental health, and the most suitable choice often depends on individual preferences, fitness levels, and health conditions. Here are some exercises known for their positive effects on mental well-being:

Cardiovascular Exercise or “Cardio”

According to American Heart Association, adults need to have at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. Activities like running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing elevate heart rate and increase blood flow, promoting the release of endorphins, which can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Strength Training

Lifting weights or performing bodyweight exercises enhances physical strength and endurance. The sense of accomplishment and improved body image from strength training can positively impact mental health.


Combining physical postures with mindfulness and controlled breathing, yoga is renowned for reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and enhancing overall mental well-being.

Mindful Walking

Simply taking a walk with a focus on the present moment, and paying attention to your surroundings and sensations, can have a calming effect on the mind and reduce stress.


Whether in a structured class or dancing around your living room, dancing is a joyful and expressive form of exercise that can boost mood and reduce stress.

How are physical activity and mental health connected?

Incorporating regular physical activity into one’s routine is a holistic approach to maintaining and promoting mental well-being. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, stimulates the release of endorphins—neurotransmitters in the brain that act as natural mood enhancers. These “feel-good” chemicals contribute to a sense of well-being and can help alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Exercise has a positive impact on sleep quality, promoting deeper and more restful sleep. Quality sleep is essential for overall mental well-being and cognitive function. Engaging in regular exercise can lead to improvements in physical fitness and appearance, contributing to a more positive self-image and increased self-esteem. Adopting a physically active lifestyle often involves making positive changes in other areas, such as nutrition and sleep hygiene. These lifestyle modifications can collectively contribute to better mental health.

How much does exercise actually help with weight loss?

Exercise can be a valuable component of a weight loss plan, but its effectiveness can vary depending on various factors. Weight loss ultimately comes down to creating a calorie deficit, where you burn more calories than you consume. Exercise contributes to this deficit by increasing the number of calories your body uses.

Physical activity burns calories, helping you create a calorie deficit. The more intense and prolonged the exercise, the more calories you burn. Regular exercise can increase your resting metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories even when you’re not active. This is because muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat tissue.

Some studies suggest that exercise can help regulate appetite and control cravings, making it easier to maintain a healthy diet and reduce calorie intake. When losing weight, a combination of diet and exercise helps preserve lean muscle mass. Preserving muscle is important because it contributes to a higher metabolic rate.

It’s crucial to note that the impact of exercise on weight loss is influenced by other factors. Nutrition plays a primary role in weight loss. Even with regular exercise, if your caloric intake is consistently higher than what you burn, weight loss may be challenging.

People respond differently to exercise. Some individuals may lose weight more effectively through exercise, while others may see more significant results by focusing on dietary changes. The effectiveness of exercise for weight loss can depend on the type, intensity, and duration of the activity. Consistency is key for both exercise and dietary changes. Sustainable, long-term habits are more likely to lead to lasting weight loss.

How does exercise improve mood?

Exercise has been shown to regulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals play crucial roles in mood regulation, and their balance is linked to mental health. Regular physical activity helps regulate the body’s stress response by reducing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. This can lead to a more balanced and resilient stress response over time.

While acute exercise can provide immediate mood benefits, regular and sustained physical activity is associated with long-term improvements in mood and mental well-being. Always consult with healthcare professionals, especially if there are pre-existing health conditions, before starting a new exercise routine.


It’s essential to find activities that you enjoy and can incorporate into your routine consistently. Remember that exercise is just one component of a holistic approach to managing stress and weight loss. Consulting with healthcare professionals, including mental health professionals and fitness experts, can help tailor an exercise routine that suits individual needs and conditions. Always start gradually and listen to your body, especially if you’re new to exercising or have pre-existing health concerns.
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