#MoveYourWay: Exploring the mental health benefits of exercise


While the positive effects of regular exercise on physical health are widely recognised, not as many people are aware of its impact on mental health. This week (13 to 19 May) for Mental Health Awareness Week, the 2024 theme #MoveYourWay highlights the benefits of exercise on both mental and physical health.

At Porterhouse, as busy, global medical communications and insights agencies, we understand that the pressures of work can affect the mental health of our valued teams, and often make it hard to prioritise exercise in our demanding schedules. Therefore, to support the Mental Health Foundation, the organisation behind Mental Health Awareness Week, below we explore some of the mental health benefits of exercise and offer some tips for incorporating more movement into our daily lives.

Mental Health Benefits

  • Reduced Stress, Anxiety and Depression: Physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, endocannabinoids, and dopamine, which act as natural mood enhancers and pain relievers. As a result, regular exercise can alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation.
  • Enhanced Cognitive Function: Exercise also promotes neuroplasticity and increases oxygen supply to your brain, which has been shown to improve memory, concentration, and overall cognitive function. It stimulates the growth of new brain cells and enhances neural connectivity, which may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life.
  • Better Sleep Quality: Regular exercise can regulate sleep patterns and improve sleep quality. By promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety, physical activity helps individuals fall asleep faster and enjoy a deeper, more restorative sleep.

Move Your Way

Exercise is not limited to high-intensity workouts such as running, playing sports, or going to the gym. It’s important to include various forms of movement, especially small changes that can significantly benefit your health and well-being. Everyday activities like walking, cleaning, and gardening, as well as leisure activities like swimming, dancing, or yoga, all count as valid forms of exercise.

Finding an activity you enjoy is key to maintaining a long-term exercise routine.

Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Daily Life

Despite the many benefits of exercise, finding time for physical activity in our busy lives can be challenging. Here are some suggestions to add more movement to your daily schedule:

At Home: Make the most of online workout videos or fitness apps to follow guided exercise routines tailored to your preferences and fitness level. Simple activities like dancing, gardening, and even cleaning, can also contribute to your daily activity goals.

At Work: Take advantage of breaks to engage in short bursts of physical activity. Stand up and stretch, take the stairs instead of the lift, or go for a brisk walk during lunchtime. Consider walking to meetings or use a standing desk to reduce sedentary behaviour.

Set Realistic Goals: Start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts over time. Consistency is key, so find activities you enjoy and make them a regular part of your routine.

Mental Health UK have also published a number of posters with tips on how to fit movement into our work and home lives. These links are to two posters with tips for moving more at home  and work.

Poster of ways to move at home for mental health awareness week

Poster of ways to move more at workFor more information on the benefits of exercise on mental health, please visit: Mental Health UK