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Written By THT Editorial Team

Dr. Kamal Gautam

Reviewed by Dr. Kamal Gautam, MBBS(KU), MD Psych (IOM), Currently working at Transcultural Psychological Organization Nepal (TPO Nepal)

Exercise and mental health are closely connected, with regular physical activity being an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. In this article, we will explore the benefits of exercise for mental health, the types of exercises that are most effective, and the mechanisms through which exercise reduces stress and anxiety.

The Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

Exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits for mental health, including:

Reducing stress and anxiety Exercise can help reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol, which can lead to a reduction in anxiety.

Improving moodExercise can help improve mood by increasing the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood boosters.

Enhancing cognitive functionRegular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function, including memory and concentration.

Increasing self-esteem Exercise can help increase self-esteem and confidence, which can have a positive impact on mental health.

Types of Exercises that are Effective for Reducing Stress and Anxiety

While any form of physical activity can be beneficial for mental health, certain types of exercises have been shown to be particularly effective. These include:

Aerobic exercise Aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling, or swimming, has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression.

Yoga Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical postures with breathing and meditation. It has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety.

Tai chiTai chi is a form of martial arts that involves slow, gentle movements and breathing exercises. It has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety.

Resistance trainingResistance training, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression.

Mechanisms through which Exercise Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Exercise reduces stress and anxiety through various mechanisms, including:

Reducing inflammationChronic inflammation is associated with stress and anxiety. Exercise can help reduce inflammation in the body, leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety.

Increasing the production of endorphinsEndorphins are the body’s natural mood boosters. Exercise can increase the production of endorphins, leading to an improvement in mood.

Promoting relaxationCertain forms of exercise, such as yoga and tai chi, promote relaxation and reduce muscle tension, which can have a positive impact on mental health.

Increasing self-esteem Exercise can increase self-esteem and confidence, leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety.

Exercise is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mental health. By incorporating regular physical activity into your daily routine, you can enjoy the numerous benefits that exercise has to offer. Consult with your doctor or a qualified fitness professional before starting any exercise program, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication.



  • Salmon, P. (2001). Effects of physical exercise on anxiety, depression, and sensitivity to stress: a unifying theory. Clinical Psychology Review, 21(1), 33-61.
  • Gothe, N. P., & McAuley, E. (2015). Yoga and cognition: A meta-analysis of chronic and acute effects. Psychosomatic Medicine, 77(7), 784-797.
  • Wang, F., Lee, E. K. O., Wu, T., Benson, H., Fricchione, G., & Wang, W. (2013). The effects of tai chi on depression, anxiety, and psychological well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 20(3), 1-15.
  • Ströhle, A. (2009). Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. Journal of Neural Transmission, 116(6), 777-784.62.