The perfect dose of exercise for bigger happiness and a stronger mental state

Sometimes, we’re so focused on physical health, we let our mental health fall to the wayside…

We let ourselves feel stressed, anxious and depressed for far too long before we take action to improve our mental state.

The thing is, mental and physical health are closely linked. So, if you let your mental health slide for too long, it could have serious physical consequences.

Plus, existing in an unhealthy mental state is no way to live. You deserve to be peaceful and happy, not stressed and depressed.

What can you do to make your mental health better?


It’s like a salve for the mind

In fact, when you exercise, your body releases feel-good hormones called endorphins and enkephalins, which make it easier to maintain a sunny outlook even when things go wrong. Plus, exercise sends more blood to the brain, which fuels your brain cells and increases the odds you’ll feel optimistic no matter what life throws at you.

But before you start exercising your brains out, you should know that more exercise isn’t always better…

Sure, exercising too little leaves you low on feel-good hormones and brain blood flow. But exercising too much can overstress your body, release stress hormones and make you feel irritable, depressed and anxious.

So, what’s the exercise sweet spot if you want to achieve peace and happiness? Here’s what the latest research says…

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Your exercise prescription for better mental health

If you’re ready to improve your mental state through exercise, your prescription is as follows:

Exercise for 45 minutes three to five times a week.

Why that exact amount?

Well, a recent study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal found that this dosage of exercise led to the biggest mental health benefits.

On average, people who exercised had 43.2 percent less “down-in-the-dumps” days per month than people who didn’t exercise. Except when they over-exercised…

People who exercised more than 90 minutes per day or more than 23 times per month started to see their mental health benefits decline. And exercising three hours per day or more was worse for mental health than not exercising at all.

So, a balanced exercise routine leads to a balanced mood. Sounds simple enough, right?

What type of exercise keeps your mind in line?

Exercise frequency and duration are important when it comes to mastering your mental health. But what about the type of exercise you’re doing. Does that make a difference?

According to this study, it does.

All types of exercise improved mental health. But there were a few types that improved mental health more than others, like:

  • Team sports. Exercising with a team improved mental health the most. It reduced the number of lousy mental health days per month by 22.3 percent. That’s probably because it brings out your social side, and socialization improves mental health too.
  • Cycling. The simple act of hopping on a bike reduced bad mental health days by 21.6 percent.
  • Aerobic/gym exercise. Heart-pounding, sweaty exercise sessions were effective as well. They led to a 20.1 percent decrease in days where you just don’t want to get out of bed each month.

So, pick the type of exercise that appeals most to you, and set aside three to five 45-minute sweat sessions per week. You’ll see major improvements in your mental health. And hey… your physical health won’t mind the extra exercise either.

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Exercise linked to improved mental health, but more may not always be better — MedicalXpress.

Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study — The Lancet Psychology.

Why Exercise Is So Essential for Mental Health — Psychology Today.

10 Signs You’re Exercising Too Much — U.S. News & World Report.

Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and