The Best Forms of Exercise to Improve Your Mood

Mature smiling woman walking in a park

Exercise can be a great way to lift your mood and improve your ability to deal with stress. When you exercise, your body often feels more relaxed and calm, but there are mental benefits, too. Find out why exercise is beneficial, and which types of exercises are best to help balance your emotions.

How Exercise Improves Mood

When you engage in high-intensity exercise, your body and brain produce hormones and neurotransmitters that have a positive impact on your mood, memory, energy levels, and sense of well-being.1 Some of these are known as endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals. They can result in the “runner’s high” that joggers talk about.

After a good workout, your muscles are tired, but you feel more relaxed. You may also feel a sense of accomplishment, which boosts your self-confidence and improves your sense of well-being. Thanks to your workout, the pent-up tension and stress in your muscles and your mind are reduced.

Exercise and Emotions

While exercise is not, on its own, a treatment for clinical depression, studies show that even a single bout of exercise results in positive changes in brain chemicals and can improve your mood. A 2017 review on the effects of exercise published in the journal Brain Plasticity, found that after exercise, people reported a better mood with decreases in tension, depression, and anger.1

In fact, for people with mild or moderate depression, 30 minutes of daily exercise may be effective for improving mood. A review study that looked at 23 randomized controlled studies found combining exercise with conventional medication and cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for depression reduced depression symptoms even more.2

More exercise isn’t necessarily going to make you happier, and as with anything, it’s possible to overdo it. For example, one of the benefits of exercise is that it stimulates cortisol production, which can help with memory and alertness. On the other hand, too much cortisol can have negative effects on your body and for your mood.3