Mental Health and Physical Activity

There’s plenty of evidence that taking part in physical activity can have a profound and positive impact on mental wellbeing. Being physically active can improve mood, decrease the chance of depression and anxiety and lead to a better and more balanced lifestyle.

Even just taking a 10-minute brisk walk can help clear the mind, increase your mental awareness, energy and mood.

There are various ways that physical activity helps mental health, including:

Reduced Stress, Depression and Anxiety

Being regularly active is shown to have a beneficial impact on alleviating stress. It can help manage stressful lifestyles and can help us make better decisions when under pressure. Exercise has been described as a “wonder drug” in preventing and managing mental health. Many GPs now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or together with other treatments.

Improved Mood

Studies show that physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. Researchers found that people felt more awake, calmer and more content after physical activity. For more information about this study, please see the Mental Health Foundation website.

Increased Self-Esteem

Physical activity has a big impact on our self-esteem – that’s how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. This is essential in the management of borderline personality disorder, where self-esteem and self-worth is a large part of the disorder. Good self-esteem is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. People with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others.

Free or Reduced Cost Exercise/Physical Activity

There are many forms of physical activity and exercise that are completely free, such as :

  • walking
  • running
  • yoga (there are many videos available on YouTube for free)
  • exercise at home (there are many fitness and exercise class videos available on YouTube for free)
  • outside gyms – check with your local council to see if there is one in your area
  • gardening

Your GP may be able to prescribe a free or discounted rate at your local fitness centre, these are often called ‘social prescriptions’

Exercise with others

Sometimes we need to exercise with others to keep ourselves motivated and accountable. You could join a local walking group (check out the Ramblers local groups to see what is in your areas), or even take up a new activity – the BBC has a huge list of sports and activities across the country.

Useful Links

NHS – Get active


NHS – Exercise for depression


NHS – Exercise



Parkruns are free, weekly, community events. Everyone is welcome to come along, whether you walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate. You can find your local parkrun on the website.