5 Reasons Why Fitness Is A Crucial Part of Mental Healthcare


Daily exercise of any kind supports our health and can provide protective factors for those with depression, suicidal behavior, and other mental health needs. Here are five reasons why.

1. Reduced Anxiety & Depression

Several studies have shown that “exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.” Why? Because stress doesn’t affect the brain alone. All of that tension trickles down to affect our whole being. The opposite is true, as well. When the body feels good, so does the mind. In fact, some studies show that regular exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression just as well as medication. Whether that exercise is a ten-minute walk or an hour-long weight-lifting session is up to you!

2. Increased Productivity

It’s Newton’s First Law of Motion: “An object in motion tends to stay in motion.” Regular exercise not only increases productivity, but it also boosts our mood. And since productivity generates dopamine (aka the feel-good neurotransmitter) in our brains, we’re more likely to feel purposeful and find genuine enjoyment in our day.

3. Enhanced Self-Esteem

Endorphins! When we work out, our bodies produce chemicals to reduce stress and pain. Truly, the human body was designed to move and heal itself. That’s why exercise often makes us feel optimistic and confident (not to mention the way it tones our muscles!). A lot of things change when you start moving through life confidently. You ask for that raise or that promotion. You stop accepting others’ poor treatment of you. You step out of your comfort zone and jump into new adventures.

4. A Sharper Mind

Studies link regular exercise to boosted brainpower in more than one way. First, it strengthens your hippocampus, which prevents cognitive decline and memory loss. This part of the brain is also where we learn, so it’s essential to keep it strong. Second, exercise does wonders for creativity and mental energy. That fogginess or mental blank you experience sometimes could be dissipated with a walk or jog around the block!

5. Social Opportunities

Ongoing social isolation can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness, and depression. According to the Tulane University School of Public Health, some symptoms of social isolation are:

  • Avoiding social interactions, including those that were once enjoyable
  • Canceling plans frequently and feeling relief when plans are canceled
  • Experiencing anxiety or panic when thinking about social interactions
  • Feeling distress during periods of solitude
  • Feeling dread associated with social activities
  • Spending large amounts of time alone or with extremely limited contact with others

Exercise is the perfect excuse to beat isolation and spend time with other people. One study found that group exercise can increase mental health more than solo workouts because the class or team often provides a support network that encourages participants to exercise more often and feel like a valued part of something bigger.

Fitness & Mental Healthcare With Endeavors 

At Endeavors, we know that mental health care isn’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why our Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics develop individualized care plans for all of our clients, as do our clinicians at the Veteran Wellness Center in San Antonio. Our clinicians are specially qualified to work with any era Veteran and their families, as well as active-duty military personnel and their families, and we are here to help guide you through your journey to improved mental health. 

For some folks, a regular fitness routine and group counseling may be the perfect solution. For others, the answer may be one-on-one therapy and some life skills training. According to Dr. Jill E. Palmer, LCSW, Acting Chief of Behavioral Health at Endeavors, “Wellness comes to us in lots of different forms. It could be learning something new, making a healthy meal, learning how to meditate, exercising, moving more, connecting with others, or receiving mental health support or family counseling.” 

The Veteran Wellness Center at Endeavors

While our Cohen Clinics in San Antonio, Killeen, and El Paso serve post-9/11 Veterans, active-duty personnel, and their families, our Veteran Wellness Center in San Antonio is here for Veterans of any era! This space is for you. 

In addition to counseling, the facility features a spacious gym that is low to no cost for Veterans and offers state-of-the-art equipment. The Center will also offer fitness classes, including Tai Chi, Yoga, Zumba, and instructor-led running and walking groups.

The Center has also carefully curated spaces featuring natural materials and an abundance of natural light to create a community vibe. In addition to workouts, classes, counseling, and other wellness services, Veterans can grab lunch or a cup of coffee and even use the community spaces to work on their laptop. Our hope is that Veterans will use the Center to connect with neighbors who have shared experiences and even find people who will pull them out of their comfort zone into new experiences.

At both our clinics and our Wellness Center, we’ve designed our holistic services to equip you with the tools and resources to build and maintain a happy, healthy, self-sufficient life for years to come. It’s not just about feeling healthy now; it’s about feeling healthy forever, come good times and bad. It’s about developing the strategies to handle whatever life throws at you. 

About Endeavors and Cohen Veterans Network

Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org

Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) national not-for-profit philanthropic network of mental health clinics for Veterans and their families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes, via a network of outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. The network currently has 19 clinics in operation serving veterans and their families across the country. Learn more about Cohen Veterans Network.

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