Effects of Exercise and Nutrition on Mental Health


I promised a blog about how exercise and nutrition affected mental health. I broke it down as simply as possible.

Effects of Exercise on Mental Health:

1. It releases feel good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins) that ease depression, make us feel relaxed and happy.

2. For those with depression exercise gives structure and purpose to the day. In general it adds focus in life, motivation, and a sense of achievement.

3. Reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression.

4. Increases body temperature which can have calming effects.

5. Eases your tension, stress, anger, frustration, mental fatigue, and/or worries. Exercise can distract you from negative thoughts that feed your anxiety and depression.

6. Gives you a natural energy boost

7. Improves sleep.

8. Can add to your social life and can be FUN!

Effects of Nutrition on Mental Health:

AVOID or LIMIT these foods:

1. Sugary foods. They are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and may give you that initial “high”, but it is soon followed by a crash that leaves you tired and low.

2. Coffee, soda, energy drinks, and tea.  All of these can contain caffeine, which in large quantities increases anxiety and depression.

3. Alcohol. It depresses the brain and can worsen the mood. Because the body uses important nutrients to process alcohol, people who experience depression should consider avoiding alcohol until they have recovered. Even then, because of alcohol’s depressant effects, they should consider drinking only small amounts – no more than once a week.

INCREASE or ADD these foods:

1. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The natural sugars that occur in these food items are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream and don’t cause mood swings. They contain thiamin or vitamin B1, which has been associated with control of mood. They also contain folate and zinc which has been shown to improve depression.

2. Protein. It  supplies the brain with tryptophan, an amino acid, and  has been shown to improve the mood of people with depression. Proteins include meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, beans,  and lentils.

3. Yogurt with active cultures. They contain probiotics which have studies have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

4. Fatty fish are filled with Omega-3 fatty acids. They have been known to reduce depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and other mental disorders. They also boost learning and memory.


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