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How Exercise Impacts the Brain and Mental Health

Getting regular exercise has a greater impact on our bodies and minds than just getting us in shape and shedding a few pounds. Exercise gives a boost to mental health along with those physical perks. Keep reading to learn what happens within the brain when you exercise to make you feel happy and light.

Everyone probably knows by now that exercising and living an active lifestyle contributes to sound mental health. But just how does that happen? What happens within the brain that makes it true that physical activity and movement promote better mental health?

There are a few key chemicals that are released in the brain during physical activity. These key chemical releases are what benefit our mental health. The most common chemicals that benefit mental health and are released during exercise are endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. When these are released into the body there’s a reaction that happens. That reaction is what makes us feel lighter, happier, and better able to handle stress.

Let’s talk about what each of these chemical releases does to influence a positive change in our mental wellbeing.


When participating in physical activity, it’s common that your brain will bump up the endorphins. This can help regulate pain levels in the body as well as help reduce the feeling of stress. A release of endorphins is also responsible for creating an overall sense of wellbeing and happiness.

This is also the chemical release that’s commonly referred to as “Runners High.” When this is brought out through exercising, it will most likely make you feel light, happy, and at ease. Endorphins actually mimic the effects of morphine which creates that euphoric, blissful sensation in the body that happens when you participate in a high-intensity workout. In turn, when this chemical is released regularly in the body through physical movement, it may help create long-lasting, positive results to mental health.


Dopamine is often associated with feelings of accomplishment, motivation, and happiness. When you complete a workout, hike, fitness class, or another active goal, dopamine is probably released at that time. This chemical release can help fuel your next bout of physical activity because you’ll want to experience that feel-good feeling again.

Because this most often goes hand in hand with accomplishment, you can look at dopamine as being the reward for a workout well done. When you complete a workout or participate in some form of physical activity, you know you’ll experience a few drops of dopamine in your system and feel a little bit better when it comes to your mental health.


Serotonin is best known for regulating mood, increasing levels of happiness, and promoting sound sleep and digestive health. This one really does it all! When your body is functioning well, often your brain will follow suit, ultimately leading to sound mental health.

This is one chemical release that happens during exercise that boasts more than just a benefit to mental health. Getting yourself up and moving is the key to getting this going in your brain and body; and trust, your body will thank you for it by feeling and functioning better.


There’s more going on within the brain and body when you workout than just getting lean and fit. The benefits of physical activity abound, including better mental health. Want to know the best part? Almost any type of physical movement and exercise will help you reap these rewards.

Yoga, biking, weightlifting, running; if it’s active, it’ll probably boost your mental health. So get out there, get moving, and get happier.


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