Exercise and Mental Hygiene


Yet another re-blog from my professional site over at Seattlecounselor.org.

Over the years I have noticed a correlation between my most anxious and depressed clients and their levels of exercise. In general, it seems that the more depressed or anxious a client is, the less exercise they get. While it’s likely that depression and anxiety interfere with the desire to exercise, it’s also often one of the most effective ways to ameliorate these intense feeling states.

Even a moderate amount of casual walking (e.g. a mile a day) can have a positive effect on the amount of “feel good” hormones like seretonin, endorphine, and adrenaline that are available to our brains. In addition to relatively immediate benefits to our mood, we know that there are multiple other benefits to be gained from regular exercise.

The idea of a mind/body connection isn’t new to most of us. Still, we frequently find excuses to skip our regular (or not so regular) workout routine. Life happens, and we find ourselves side-tracked by work, friends, kids, hobbies, and various random distractions.

We need to remember that exercise is crucial to both our physical and mental health. One of my favorite questions for my clients is whether or not they have showered, brushed their teeth, and applied deodorant that day. I tend to get ever so slightly uncomfortable–and occasionally indignant–responses in the affirmative. These activities help us to be physically healthy. I believe that regular exercise is as important for mental health as these other activities are for physical and social health — yet we routinely neglect exercise more often, simply because the detrimental effects aren’t always as immediate as bad breath or body odor. I wonder what we would think if we could directly track our lack of exercise on our feelings, moods, interactions with others, and even our relationships?

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3 Comments

Filed under Psychobabble

3 responses to “Exercise and Mental Hygiene

  1. oh ho, this is *definitely* one of my little soapboxes – because I can directly track the patterns in my life that correlate high levels of self-confidence and happiness to regular exercise. Get out & move people!! There’s no such thing as ‘bad’ working out – any activity is good for your head.

  2. Marwin

    So true! My bro lives in dreary old Berlin. Berlin is great, but in winter it can get ‘tres triste’. This winter he’s taken to regurlary work out three to four times a week with a friend of his…. and feels MUCH better as a result. He took this as an active step against his temporal but seasonal depressed feelings and totally swears on it now. I believe we were made to move and this notion works with all creation theories, be it an intention God or brainless evolution… we were made to move, to run, to work, to dodge, to hunt… whatever. We cannot stay truly connected to ourself if we do not FEEL our body move, excercise, get tired and refreshed.

    As simple as that!

  3. Marwin

    …and this video shows that even boring excercise like climbing stairs can be turned into something fun:

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