Exercising outside or with friends is good for your mental as well as physical health.

4 Ways Exercise Helps Your Mental Health

While physical fitness might be your main motivation for exercising, it’s nice to know that moving your body is good for your mind too. Research shows that being active boosts your mood, keeps you sharp, reduces stress, and improves your general happiness and well-being. and help you feel healthier and happier overall. One study found that people who exercise have 43 percent fewer days of poor mental health than people who don’t.

Exercise also helps you sleep better, too! In other words, what’s good for the body is good for the mind. Here are four ways to boost these mind-body benefits.

1. Get Some Fresh Air

When you’re feeling low, anxious, or stressed out, take it outside! All it takes is 20 to 30 minutes in nature, experts say, and your levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop by more than 20 percent.

2. Add Mindfulness to Your Run or Walk

Take advantage of the time you spend running or walking, and add mindfulness into the mix. The easiest way to do this? Focus on the environment around you and on the movements of your body, feeling the ground through your feet and listening to the sound of your breath. And don’t worry if your mind wanders, just gently bring it back to concentrate on your breath and body.

3. Go for Some Yoga

The benefits of yoga go on and on. Physically, yoga helps with balance and flexibility and strengthens the core muscles that aid posture and combat back, shoulder and hip pain. Some types of yoga also include deep breathing, which is a shortcut to stress relief. And yoga can improve your sleep, too.

4. Try Team Sports

There’s endless evidence linking social activity with lower levels of depression and anxiety. And joining a sports team or league or participating in regular pickup games is a shortcut to social connectedness. One study found that those who participate in team sports report more good mental health days than any other group. Even better, sign up for a fitness activity or event that benefits a favorite cause and you’ll get all those good feels, too.

Note: When participating in team sports, remember to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 safety guidelines on how to safely participate in team sports.


Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.