Exercise for Mental Health

Different types of exercise serve different functions in managing distress.

Intense exercise

When we breathe normally, there is an ideal amount of  carbon dioxide in our blood, but when we panic breathe, this balance goes out of whack and we enter respiratory alkalosis.  This is caused by a change in the pH of our blood which can cause an experience of mild delirium, making it difficult to think clearly when you are panicking. One of the fastest methods of resolving this is using intense burst exercise. Doing an activity that has you “huffing and puffing” will help correct your blood pH for acute distress relief. A minute or two can make all the difference.


  • Running up and down flights of stairs

  • Using an exercise bike vigorously

  • Running sprints


Strength-based exercise

Strength training in the form of weight training or resistance training has been shown to have an effect on mood. It causes the secretion of growth factors in the brain which can help increase resilience for stress and improve mood. Increased strength is associated with more confidence and better mood.


  • Weights training

  • Resistance training


Endurance type exercise

Endurance exercise can decrease sensitivity by building tolerance of discomfort. Any form of exercise that takes a long time puts a strain on the body. The skills that you would implement to learn to tolerate this can then be applied to emotional discomfort. With physical endurance come mental endurance.


  • A run for 20-30 minutes at a pace which means you can’t hold a conversation easily.

  • A fast hill walk


Restorative exercise

Restorative exercise can offer improved reserve and decreased sensitivity by using movement to take care of your body. Exercise that involves stretching, breathing and holding poses can increase flexibility and strengthen the mind/body connection.


  • Yoga

  • Tai Chi