The benefits of being physically active
Find out more about how being physically active can benefit your mental health and wellbeing.
Making small changes to your daily life, from leaving the car at home for short journeys or getting off the bus a stop earlier, to climbing the stairs rather than taking the lift can all help to boost your mood. The evidence is clear, exercise reduces the likelihood of depression and also maintains mental health as we age. The 2017 British Active Students Survey also showed that students who were active had higher wellbeing, inclusion and perceptions of attainment and employability compared to inactive students.
The benefits of being physically active for mental health and wellbeing - what the experts say....
Being active has a huge potential to enhance our wellbeing. Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood.
Ekkekakis, P., Hall, E.E., Van Landuyt, L.M. & Petruzzello, S. (2000). Walking in (affective) circles: Can short walks enhance affect? Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 23 (3), 245–275
Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety.
Alfermann, D. & Stoll, O. (2000). Effects of Physical Exercise on Self-Concept and Wellbeing. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 31, 47–65.
Salmon, P. (2001). Effects of Physical Activity on Anxiety, Depression, and Sensitivity to Stress: A Unifying Theory. Clinical Psychology Review, 21 (1), 33–61.
Physical activity has been shown to have a positive influence on our self-esteem and self-worth. This relationship has been found in children, adolescents, young adults, adults and older people, and across both males and females.
Lindwall, M. & Aşçı, F.H. (2014). Physical Activity and Self-Esteem. In: A. Clow & S. Edmunds (eds.). Physical activity and mental health. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Physical activity can reduce levels of anxiety in people with mild symptoms and may also be helpful for treating clinical anxiety. Physical activity is available to all, has few costs attached, and is an empowering approach that can support self-management.
Conn, V.S. (2010). Anxiety outcomes after physical activity interventions: meta-analysis findings. Nursing Research, 59 (3), 224–231.
Asmundson, G.J.G., Fetzner, M.G., DeBoer, L.B., Powers, M.B., Otto, M.W. & Smits, J.A.J. (2013). Let’s get physical: a contemporary review of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for anxiety and its disorders. Depression and Anxiety, 30 (4), 362–373.
Physical exercise can be very effective in relieving stress. Research on employed adults has found that highly active individuals tend to have lower stress rates compared to individuals who are less active.
 Kouvonen, A., Kivimaki, M., Elovainio, M., Virtanen, M., Linna, A. & Vehtera, J. (2005). Job strain and leisure-time physical activity in female and male public sector employees. Preventative Medicine, 41 (2), 532–539.