Physical Activity is Important for Mental Health


In this essay I will be setting up a self-contract with my personal fitness goals. This essay will also include the importance of physical fitness and exercising with regard to mental health. Physical fitness helps one’s mental well-being in a lot of ways that will be discussed in this essay.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there is immediate benefits of physical fitness and exercising to your mental health. These benefits includes, better cognition in children and lower short-term feelings of anxiety in adults. It also sharpens your judgement skills and learning. While your body gets exercised your confidence gets a boost and your mental health gets better.

The more you help your body, the more you help the mind. More oxygen flows to the brain if you exercise. Physical fitness also increases endorphins in your body. Endorphins is the “feel-good’ chemical of the brain. This is why people in good shape also has a higher level of mental sharpness. When participating in robust physical workout it helps to fight depression and anxiety. Physical fitness improves your mood. It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulates stress and anxiety. It increases brain sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine that relieve feelings of depression and anxiety. Physical workout can also help you to beat stress which can harm you physically and mentally. (Grohol, 2018). (Semeco, 2017).

Physical fitness also improves mental health due to the fact that it improves your sleeping cycles. It is shown that people who are physically fit falls asleep easier because when cooling off after exercising your body temperature falls which leads to deeper sleep. This plays a role in mental health because a well-rested mind can think better and has better judgement about decisions. Enough sleep is also necessary when studying and working. When people are tired they become more irritable and this makes them temperamental, hence when you are rested you will not have these problems.

Exercise promotes positive well-being, an increase of physical activity has found to enhance your mood, improve energy levels and promotes quality sleep. There are a few reasons why exercising is good for you. Exercising can distract you from negative emotions and feelings because it takes your mind of your problems. Physical activity also promotes your confidence because your muscles get toned and your self-confidence gets better. This makes you feel better about yourself and boost your confidence and you have a more positive view of life.(Star and Gans, 2019).

Physical activity directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of some brain regions through better blood supply that improves neuronal health. Because there is an increase of blood supply more oxygen and nutrients gets delivered and this includes neurohormones. These neurohormones support neuron signaling, growth, and connections. (Gingell, 2018).

A very important area in the brain that physical exercise affect is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in memory, emotion regulation and learning. It has been found that exercise helps with creation of new hippocampal neurons. The forming of new neurons is called neurogenesis. Exercise stimulates cell growth, it was found that voluntary physical activity increases the proliferation of stem cells in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. These neurons are important for storing new memories as well as separating the old and new memories. Neurogenesis also allows the process of new information. (Gingell, 2018).

Physical activity increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) and VEGF (vascular endothelial growth) levels in the body. BDNF and VEGF are proteins that is responsible for neural survival and blood vessel forming. BDNF levels is higher in the brain while exercising and per year it increases to 2% of the volume in the hippocampus. BDNF activates receptors in the parent cells of the hippocampus which helps with creating new neurons. VEGF plays a direct and indirect role in neurogenesis. It increases the number and perimeter of blood vessels. An increase of blood vessels and their perimeter makes the circulation better as well as cellular health. Exercising with this increase of VEGF triggers an increase of parent cells and decrease in cellular death. (Morales and Riquelme, 2020).

Exercise helps memory and thinking in different ways. Benefits of exercise comes directly from your ability to decrease insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and stimulate the release of growth factors. These growth factors are chemicals in the brain that affect the health of your brain cells, growth of new blood vessels in the brain as well as the survival of new brain cells. Indirectly exercise improves mood and sleep. It also reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas contributes and sometimes cause cognitive impairment. (Godman, 2014).

Physical exercise also increases a variety of neurotransmitters. While exercising your body produces more catecholamines. These prepare you to respond in stressful of physically active situations. The other neurotransmitters in this group are norepinephrine, dopamine and epinephrine. The increase in these neurotransmitters increases endorphins, this is why physical activity improves your well-being. (Morales and Riquelme, 2020).

Anti-depression medication known as antidepressants can also be used to help with depression and anxiety. There is a lot of different types that is available including herbal supplements. Each of these antidepressants come with their own side-effects. There are several side-effects including; nausea, headache, drowsiness, fatigue, insomnia and there is more. This is why healthcare providers tell their patients that they should try to use physical fitness as “medication”. Physical exercise has a lot of benefits for our mental health and could possibly be a better alternative. (Legg and Bjarnadottir, 2018).

Dopamine regulates a variety of functions within your brain and body. It contributes to regulating blood flow through arteries, learning, memory and high cognitive functioning. It also regulates motor activity, contributes to the regulation of hormones secretion of the pituitary gland and functions of the Autonomic Nervous System. This chemical is a neurotransmitter and sends signals from the body to the brain. The right balance is necessary for both physical and mental well-being. The brain functions that affects mood, sleep, memory and learning is influenced by the levels of dopamine in a person’s body. (Cadman and Falck, 2019).

Low dopamine levels is linked to a few mental health disorders such as depression and Parkinson’s disease, but it does not cause these mental health disorders. This is why physical exercising is essential for your mental well-being as it stimulates the secretion of dopamine and it increases the level of dopamine in the body. (Cadman and Falck, 2019).

Another chemical that plays a big role in mental health well-being is Serotonin. Serotonin sends signals between your nerve cells. This chemical has an impact on every part of your body from your emotions to your motor skills. This hormone is a natural mood stabilizer. It helps with sleeping, eating and digesting it also reduces depression and regulates anxiety. Low levels of serotonin is linked with depression. Serotonin has also been linked with anxiety and insomnia. A natural serotonin booster is regular exercise. This is another reason why physical fitness plays a role in the quality of your mental health. (Wilson and Scaccla, 2017).

Aerobic exercise is key for your head, and your heart. Exercise also can reduce stress. At the beginning you will feel that exercise is more work than relaxation, but the more fit you get the more fun it will become. Regular aerobic exercise will have a lot of benefits and will certainly have positive changes to your body, your heart and your spirit. Physical exercising can be exhilarating and at the same time relaxing, it can take away stress and counter depression. A lot of clinical trials have proven that exercise can treat anxiety and clinical depression. (Medical School, 2018).

Exercise decrease stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that builds fat around the abdominal region, making weight loss difficult. It causes many health problems, both physical and mental. With aerobic exercises your waistline will shrink and strength will increase this builds confidence and pride. (Medical School, 2018).

Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands and is released to control the body’s blood glucose levels, regulate metabolism and a few other reasons. A good night’s sleep is crucial in regulating cortisol. This hormone is released when you feel stressed or endangered. While exercising your body can also trigger cortisol production and release, because it is under stress and this can lead to weight gain. But, with exercising and prolonged cardio, cortisol is released to preserve the body’s carbohydrate stores for energy. Then the body uses fatty acids and amino acids for fuel which leads to muscle breakdown. (Galic, 2019).

Workout-induced cortisol release, this is not the same as chronic stress cortisol release. Exercise-related cortisol causes a release in dopamine which makes you feel good. Stress-induced cortisol does not have these positive reaction but a depressing reaction. (Galic, 2019).

Another hormone that plays a role while physical exercising is the IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor-1). This hormone is produced by the body. With Insulin-like growth factor-1 the growth hormone also plays a role while exercising. (Mannerkorpi et al., 2017).

Exercise increases growth hormone in the body as well as IGF-1, in healthy adults. IGF-1 can be considered as a marker for physical fitness because with more IGF-1 circulating the endurance and capacity of aerobic exercise increases. (Birzniece, 2019).

The effect of physical activity on the growth hormone. Growth hormone responses to exercise shows that during it maintains muscle mass by saving protein at the charge of lipids. The increase of growth hormone during physical exercise is required for the transition of fuel usage and following lipid repletion in the muscle. This means your muscles will get toned and you will lose weight because of the lipid usage. (Birzniece, 2019).

The effects of exercise on the insulin-like growth factor-1. During exercise the IGF-1 factor is lower than usual, but its insulin-like growth factor-binding proteins (IGFBPs) is increased. The reduction in IGF-1 has been connected to a catabolic phase during intense exercise. The reduction also has a beneficial influence on the growth hormone secretion by lessening negative feedback, therefore further higher amount of circulation growth hormone promotes the use of free fatty acids utilization as fuel for the muscle to use.(Birzniece, 2019).


In conclusion I believe that exercise is beneficial for mental health. The facts presented in this essay shows that when you exercise more it is not only beneficial to your physical health but your mental health as well. I will definitely keep on exercising and keep this research in mind the next time I am not the mood to exercise. I found that exercise is key to our mental health because it reduces stress, anxiety and depression. It also builds confidence and benefits your self-image. I also believe that how stronger the body, the stronger the mind. As long as I keep on exercising my final fitness assessment will not be hard because my body will be able to do it and my mind will be strong enough to motivate me. As I exercise and build my physical and mental health, I will try to motivate other people to try physical fitness. I will try to show them with my goals that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and the only way to get your mind stronger in a healthy way is through exercise.


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  2. Cadman, B. and Falck, S. (2019) Dopamine deficiency : What you need to know. Available at:
  3. Galic, B. (2019) Exercise Can Reduce Stress , So Why Does It Spike Cortisol ? What Exactly Is Cortisol ? Cortisol and Exercise. Available at:
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  10. Morales, M. and Riquelme, U. (2020) What happens to your Brain When you Exercise? Available at:
  11. Semeco, A. (2017) The Top 10 Benefits of Regular Exercise. Available at:
  12. Star, K. and Gans, S. (2019) How Physical Exercise Benefits Mental Health. Available at:
  13. Wilson, D. R. and Scaccla, A. (2017) Serotonin : What You Need to Know. Available at:
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Physical activity is important for mental health. (2021, May 24). Retrieved August 9, 2022 , from

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