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The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise For Anxiety and Depression

November 09, 2023 4 min read

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise For Anxiety and Depression

At certain times in your life, the stresses of everyday challenges can be taxing, to say the least. Whether it is work, relationships, money, or any other number of hurdles, your overall health can suffer.

Add in actual diagnosed mental health conditions that may require medication just to get by and the struggle can become that much more enormous.

Conventional medicine can mitigate symptoms of many obstacles including stress, anxiety, depression, ADD (attention deficit disorder), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) by using medications, as well as numerous applicable therapies.

These approaches can work well, but adding in a good protocol of physical activity could be a good move. Consistent exercise can help you more successfully manage your daily stress or cognitive struggles alongside conventional treatment. In some cases, it may even help you begin to heal your mind and body naturally. 

Explore the mental health benefits of exercise for a direct look at how applying a physical activity program may work for you. It can keep your mind on track or navigate challenges you might be struggling with and it is even better when you have a helping hand along the way. 

AFT Fitness Coaching's 1-on-1 online fitness and nutrition coaching program embraces the mental health benefits of exercise to help get you where you need to go, one step at a time.

Moving Depression and Anxiety Away

Depression and anxiety are two of the top mental health issues in America today. There are many reasons, causes, or biological factors that can lead to presentations of depression or anxiety. These are difficult conditions to deal with, let alone assess as many people live their lives not even knowing they are struggling in the first place.

However, some will tell you that when they are able to do something physical they feel much better. This is why exercise has proven to be a successful prescription for those dealing with minor to major clinical depression or anxiety. 

Teenagers have a high prevalence of depression and anxiety as their hormones continue to develop, especially as a digital society clamps down on healthy growth. When an exercise protocol is implemented, symptoms of anxiety, and especially depression, have been shown to lessen. This was particularly obvious in a study of adolescents being treated in a hospital setting.

Neuroscientists from the MSL-In Laboratory, Brussels, Belgium Psychiatric Hospital, published their findings on the impact of physical exercise on depression and anxiety in adolescent inpatients which concluded: “Structured physical exercise add-on therapy integrated into the psychiatric hospitalization of adolescents has led to a reduction in their depressive symptoms, demonstrating its effectiveness in the care of adolescent inpatients with depression” (1). 

On the other end, numerous adults have their own life struggles that may also involve depression or anxiety. This has led to a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals that have helped many but could have some missing out on a very important factor, exercise.

An archival study of the influence of physical exercise on mental well-being was conducted by researchers at the Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Bristol, UK which concluded “Together, this body of research suggests that moderate regular exercise should be considered as a viable means of treating depression and anxiety and improving mental well-being in the general public” (2). 

This research presented the mental health benefits of exercise decades ago. Yet, today, conventional medicine still minimizes recommendations rather than recommends it in place of or alongside pharmaceuticals alone.

In a paper on exercise and neglected intervention in mental health care by researchers from the Department of Mental Health and Learning Disability, City University, London, it was stated that “There is evidence that exercise is beneficial for mental health;...However, exercise is seldom recognized by mainstream mental health services as an effective intervention in the care and treatment of mental health problems” (3).

At AFT Fitness Coaching, we understand the inherent importance of optimal exercise and nutrition going hand-in-hand to support strength and cognitive enhancement. 

This is why we take pride in creating a personalized program that meets the needs of anyone, at any age, on any level to benefit from professional coaching that also includes a distinctive, empathetic approach.

The Quick List

 If you aren’t convinced by now of the mental health benefits of exercise you can always refer to this quick list to emphasize the benefits and counteract your doubts. Presented in a study by researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Omaha VA Medical Center (5), this list was originally recommended to medical professionals for patient support. Now, these unmistakable mental health benefits of exercise are proposed directly to you. Refer to this list when you need to be reminded of the importance of embracing personal change.

  • Improved sleep
  • Increased interest in sex
  • Better endurance
  • Stress relief
  • Improvement in mood
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
  • Weight reduction
  • Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness

Let us help you light that fire through a unique mentoring program like no other out there today. Whether in-person or remote, AFT Fitness Coaching embraces each client as if they are our own family members, not just another number.

These mental health benefits of exercise are just a handful of examples that can only be implemented through personal experience, not another study you read.

Don’t forget:

“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness.”

~Robin Sharma, Canadian author


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35007642/

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10610081

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15255923/

  4. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes.html

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/

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