Most people with struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives. If we don’t take steps to care for our mental health, stress can build up and eventually overwhelm us. If you have every struggled with periods of anxiety or depression, someone may have advised you to exercise as a way to relieve symptoms. It can sound like a silly tip that doesn’t actually work. While exercise probably won’t solve all of your mental health problems, it actually does do a great deal to reduce stress. But how and why exactly does it help?

Dr. Ileana Berman is a cognitive science researcher with 30+ years of experience. Her work largely focuses on drawing connections between OCD and Schizophrenia. Today she shares the reasons that exercise is good for reducing stress:

  • Exercise ramps up production of endorphins in your brain. These neurotransmitters simply just make you feel good. 
  • Stress is often caused by your body’s fight or flight response. During caveman times, this response helped our body prepare to fight or run away from a threat (both of which involve some serious physical activity). Today, however, our bodies don’t often complete the whole response by either fighting or fleeing. This results in a buildup of cortisol (the stress hormone). Exercise helps to relieve that.