Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Get Regular Exercise for Mental Health
Exercise is about more than keeping
in shape. It also can help with your emotional and mental health. Exercise can
help you improve your self-esteem, keep your mind off problems, and give you a
sense of control. In general, people who are fit have less
depression, and stress than people who are not
Research suggests that exercise
can help specific mental health problems. Exercise may help prevent depression
from coming back (relapse) and improve symptoms of mild
Moderate exercise is safe
for most people, but it's a good idea to talk with your doctor before increasing
your activity. Anyone age 65 or older should talk with a doctor before
It can be hard to be active
when you feel depressed or anxious or have a mental health problem. But
activity can help you feel better, so do your best to find a way to be active.
It's fine to start with small steps. You can build up from a few minutes a
Do your best to slowly work up to
moderate activity for at least 2½ hours a week.
Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or shooting
baskets. But any activities—including daily chores—that raise your
heart rate can be included. Find a pace that is
comfortable. You can be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your
day and week.
If you have problems exercising on your own, ask
someone to exercise with you or join an exercise group or health club.
For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.
Buchner DM (2012). Physical activity. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds., Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 56–58. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Wiles NJ, et al. (2007). Physical activity and common
mental disorders: Results from the Caerphilly study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 165(8): 946–954.
Cipriani A, et al. (2011). Depression in adults (drug and other physical treatments), search date June 2009. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.