How does exercise help mental health issues? | Best Exercise for Mental health

Imagine you’ve just seen the worst dance ever on Strictly Come Dancing. The dancer could have absolutely flopped the dance yet they’re still the epitome of good mental health. They’re smiling, their chest is lifted, they’re hot and sweaty but feel proud and accomplished. They have an unfaltering sense of optimism and a look that says ‘Everything is great’ despite being on the downward slope of their career. 

Early Human History

It is only in the last 7% of human history that extensive and vigorous daily exercise has been a choice. Before that, it was essential to gather food and hunt. But the effort did not guarantee reward. You could venture out and come back with nothing after hours of vigorous exercise. The act of hunting and gathering, therefore, had to be rewarding in itself. 
Think about the Strictly Come Dancing competitor. Worst dance ever; doesn’t even know if they’re staying in the competition, yet elated nonetheless because the effort was rewarding. 

What this means for us

Just like sex, we had to do it, so why not make it pleasurable so we do it more often. We evolved to have a very beneficial relationship with exercise. As well as improving our heart, joint and bone health it hugely benefits our mental health. Runners for example suffer with depression at a 40% lower rate than non-runners. Maya, Gravesend based Revitalize Personal Trainer says that she doesn’t have one client who hasn’t benefited mentally from training with her. In fact most of her Gravesend and Online personal training clients started training with her to improve their mental health. 

Dopamine and Serotonin

Next time you’re in our Gravesend Clinic watch our personal training clients enter and leave the gym. Notice that they leave smiling, high on life. Remember I said we need a reward for the effort? That’s where Dopamine and Serotonin come in. They make us feel good. They’re also released when we drink alcohol and eat junk food which is partly why they’re so addictive. This is also why many of our Gravesend Personal Training Clients eat far less junk food when they’re training. They’re filling their “pleasure’meter” with exercise rather than unhealthy choices. 
It can take some weeks to get into exercise before you start to build a healthy relationship with it where you achieve a natural high. So be patient

The moral of the story is, after a few weeks of continuous effort, exercise makes us feel great purely for the effort of it. This helps to battle mental health issues. 

Sublimation and Displacement

The unconscious mind can be a dark place. Often people who are very peaceful and calm on the outside can be very aggressive or violent underneath. Or they may have the drive to dominate, throw, destroy etc. Sublimation is where we take these socially unacceptable drivers and channel them through socially acceptable behavior. 
For example: 

  • the violent person enjoys boxing
  • the one who likes to destroy enjoys throwing sandbags
  • the one who is driven to dominate wants to win races or gain personal bests (self domination)

If we didn’t channel these unconscious drivers, we may cause harm to ourselves or other people. Exercise can enable us to channel this
I was talking to friend not long ago who wanted had split from his girlfriend and wanted her back. He ran 13 miles to her house, sublimating his drive to be with her and then ran back, which was therapeutically enabling him to let go. 
Displacement is when we take negative tendencies and direct them into something else. For example, if we develop tension during the week from a stressful home or working environment, exercise can help us to displace and release this tension


Anyone who has suffered from poor mental health may notice themselves feeling increasingly distant from the world. This can develop into disassociation which is where your perception of reality shifts. You may experience hallucinations or the feeling that you’re dreaming; that life isn’t real. 

Grounding is where we act on our environment to pull us back into reality. Exercise is a great example of exercising power over your environment. Our Gravesend based Personal trainers who are available online and face to face, often guide the session slightly to enable their clients to ‘ground’ themselves and get them back in the zone. 

This may be putting on the music they enjoy, lifting weights, hitting pads etc all to ground them in the present, getting them out of their head and interactive with their reality in a beneficial and constructive way.  

So how about your mental health?

Have you wondered about how your mental health could benefit from training? We’re here to help
Revitalize Gravesend based Personal Trainers know that the right approach is to tweak what you’re currently doing. Minimal change for maximum results because no-one sticks to what they hate. Delicious food bursting with flavour and nutrition, guided by our Gravesend Personal Trainers and professional Chefs. Exercise that is so fun it inspires you to do more. Weekly to monthly weigh-ins, high fives and celebrations as you drop another 2kg of body fat. 

Is that some abdominal definition you see? You were too busy having fun to realise. That’s how your transformation will be. All in our Gravesend Private Studio. Just you and your trainer. 

Want to hit something? No problem. Chuck something heavy around. Fine! Whatever you enjoy, let’s keep to that in our private gym. Your Revitalize Gravesend Personal Trainer will be sure you get your transformation with more fun than you thought possible.
Ready to chat about your dream physique? Book your free consultation today

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