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The Impact Of Exercise On Mental Health: Building Healthy Habits

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The Impact Of Exercise On Mental Health Building Healthy Habits

Incorporating exercise into daily routines has emerged as a powerful ally in the pursuit of good mental health, particularly for individuals grappling with different types of depression or anxiety. With the new year upon us, many people look to make a fresh start, and setting new exercise and fitness goals is a common New Year’s resolution—but did you know that, aside from getting into shape, getting more exercise can also be great for the mind? In this article, we explore the mental benefits of exercise, recognizing the challenges posed by mood disorders and offering insights into how therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can help on the journey toward building healthy habits.

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Exercise For Mental Health: A Therapeutic Approach

Regular physical activity has been extensively studied and proven to affect mental health positively (1). From reducing symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety to improving mood and cognitive function, exercise offers a multifaceted approach to mental well-being (2). For individuals battling depression, anxiety, or even more complex mood disorders like manic depression (bipolar disorder) and persistent depressive disorder (PDD), incorporating exercise can play a pivotal role in their overall treatment plan.

Challenges Of Sticking To A Routine With Mood Disorders

Adhering to a consistent exercise routine can be particularly challenging for individuals grappling with mood disorders. There are different types of depression, but most involve feelings of fatigue, lethargy, and a lack of motivation—hurdles that make initiating and sustaining an exercise regimen seem daunting. Anxiety, on the other hand, may lead to restlessness and an overwhelming sense of unease, further complicating the establishment of a regular exercise routine.

While starting and maintaining an exercise routine can be challenging, it is well worth the effort considering the mental health benefits. Having a workout buddy for accountability, doing workouts at home, or signing up for a class, may help someone develop this healthy habit.

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Mental Benefits Of Exercise

The benefits of exercise for mental health are many, including positive effects on the following (3):

  • Neurotransmitter Regulation: Exercise stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine—chemicals that play a crucial role in regulating mood and reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Stress Reduction: Physical activity serves as a natural stress reliever, aiding in the reduction of cortisol levels and promoting a calmer state of mind.
  • Improved Sleep Patterns: Many individuals with mood disorders struggle with disrupted sleep. Regular exercise contributes to better sleep quality, fostering overall mental well-being.
  • Enhanced Cognitive Function: Exercise has been linked to improved cognitive function, including better concentration and memory, providing valuable support for those dealing with mood disorders.

Bridging The Gap With Therapies

Mood disorders can pose many challenges on your journey to physical and mental health, and it’s not as simple as simply sweating ourselves into a healthy mental state. Instead, here is what we recommend to keep in mind as you start planning your exercise routine:

  • Set realistic goals. Remember to start with small, manageable steps and scale up from there when you feel ready.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not always easy to maintain a routine, and it can be tempting to get frustrated and give up. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you find yourself struggling, restructure your goals into smaller steps and try again.
  • Seek professional mental health help on your journey. Ideally, you want to work on your mind and body regularly over the same period to experience the benefits of this holistic approach. An exercise routine can be an excellent complement to psychiatric treatments, such as talk therapy and medications.

Sometimes, medications for mood disorders fail to achieve satisfactory results due to intolerable side effects or simple inefficacy—around 30-50% of patients on some classification of antidepressants do not experience lasting remission (4). However, Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry offers specialized mental health services to complement traditional approaches. TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, offering relief for individuals with treatment-resistant depression. Our comprehensive approach aims to address the challenges of mood disorders and support individuals in building healthy habits that contribute to their overall well-being. 

Take the first step toward a healthier mind—explore the mental benefits of exercise and discover the transformative power it holds for your mental health journey. If you’re wondering how to get TMS therapy, Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry is here to support you. Contact us online or call (212) 731-2033 for more information or to schedule a consultation.


  1. Alexandratos, K., Barnett, F., & Thomas, Y. The Impact of Exercise on the Mental Health and Quality of Life of People with Severe Mental Illness: A Critical Review. British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2012;72, 2. Link. Accessed December 11, 2023.
  2. Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevski, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. Exercise and mental health. Maturitas. 2017; 106, 48-56. Link. Accessed December 11, 2023.
  3. Deslandes, Moraes, H., Ferreira, C., Veiga, H., Silveira, H., Mouta, R., et al., Exercise and Mental Health: Many Reasons to Move. Neuropsychobiology 1. 2009;59 (4): 191–198. Link. Accessed December 11, 2023.
  4. Rafeyan R, Papakostas GI, Jackson WC, Trivedi MH. Inadequate Response to Treatment in Major Depressive Disorder: Augmentation and Adjunctive Strategies. J Clin Psychiatry. 2020;12;81(3). Link. Accessed December 11, 2023.
Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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