According to the holistic model of health, it is very important for us as humans to care for our physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs as these are all components that make up our overall health.

When examining the benefits of exercise, the first area of health that will often come to mind is the various physical benefits of exercising. Whether it is helping control your weight or reducing your risk for heart disease, it is clear that exercising is extremely beneficial for our bodies.

One area of health that will often get forgotten when looking at the advantages of exercise is the positive influence it has on mental health. This will come as a surprise for many people as we often do not correlate physical activity with the way we feel mentally, however research has shown that there are various ways in which exercising positively shapes our mental wellbeing.

For this reason, I would like to point out three areas that demonstrate the potential beneficial effects exercise can have on our mental health:

1. Exercise and Anxiety

At one point or another, it is likely that everyone has dealt with higher anxiety levels than they would have liked, resulting in effects that negatively impact people’s ability to carry out their daily tasks. By exercising, it is possible to decrease anxiety levels as studies have shown that people who are not physically active were found to be associated with higher anxiety levels than those who do exercise. And not only does exercise help with resolving anxiety, but it is even able to help enhance people’s overall mental wellbeing.

2. Exercise and Self-Esteem

As humans, it is important that we learn to value who we are as individuals as it is only than we are able live up to our full potential. Research has shown that low levels of self-esteem are strong predictors of both emotional and behavioral problems. There are many ways to help boost self-esteem, but one of the most practical ways is to start exercising as it is easy to implement and has been found to help increase overall self-esteem in a significant way.

3. Exercise and Depression

Whether directly themselves or indirectly through someone they know, it is likely that the majority of people at one point in their life will be faced with the hurtful effects that come along with depression. When looking at the relationship between depression and exercise, studies make it clear that those who exercise consistently even for short durations are significantly associated with lower risk of depressive symptoms. Exercising  has even been found to help those who are already in a depressed mood state by alleviating their symptoms and improving their mood state in a positive way. Overall, exercise has been found to be an effective way to help those facing depression, however it is still important to go and get support from a professional as they are the ones who can give full holistic support.


Blog post by Simon Kahsay, Volunteer.