4 Ways Exercise Can Help Improve Your Mood

Boost your health and experience the emotional benefits of physical activity.

A smiling woman jogs as she experiences the emotional benefits of physical activity. Exercise and mood go hand-in-hand.

Updated on July 19, 2023.

There are a few different theories that explain why mood improves and sadness and anxiety tend to decrease after working out. 

The first has to do with endorphins, which are released in the body during exercise. Endorphins are morphine-like chemicals that interact with opioid receptors in the brain and may produce feelings of euphoria. 

Norepinephrine, another chemical messenger in the brain, modulates stress levels in the body and rises during exercise for animals. In humans, the relationship between exercise and norepinephrine—along with serotonin and dopamine, other brain chemicals that may play a role in mood—is still being examined. While researchers look into this, many mental health professionals recommend exercise to their patients as a way to help patients with clinical depression. 

Other ways exercise improves your mental health 

In addition to the positive neurochemical effects, exercise can greatly boost your social life and overall sense of well-being. Here’s how: 

Exercise creates self-efficacy. Setting goals is important, as is achieving those goals. Whether your ambition is to walk five minutes on the treadmill, run your errands by foot or by bike, or lift a heavier weight than the week before, accomplishing goals can increase overall self-confidence. Succeeding at a challenge you lay out for yourself can influence how you approach future tasks. 

Exercise distracts you. Working out and having a more active lifestyle can temporarily divert your mind from negative thoughts and disruptive mental patterns. When you have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other while running or participating in a sport, for example, it’s difficult to worry at the same time about something that's stressing you out. 

Exercise helps you meet new people. Keeping fit provides a positive way for you to socialize. Broadening your social circle, in turn, can positively impact your overall well-being. So, grab a pair of sneakers and head to the park, the pool, the bike path, or a group exercise class. 

No matter what time of year it is, you still have a chance to start or boost an exercise regimen. Not only will you improve your physical health, but you can experience the emotional benefits of exercise, as well.

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