The Emotional and Social Benefits of Physical Activity

Life can get so busy that we often forget the importance making our own health and wellness a priority. Exercise and mental health research shows a significant rise in the emotional benefits of exercise. Don’t underestimate the social benefit of physical activity too. So if you struggle with finding the time to workout, know that the physiological benefits of exercise are something you cannot ignore.

Physiological Benefits of Exercise are Just the Beginning

We all know the that working out consistently helps to maintain and improve physical health. For one thing, exercising regularly supports weight loss and/or weight maintenance by increasing your metabolic rate in order to burn calories. It also promotes stable muscle mass, bone density, overall strength (including your ever-important core) and, well, keeps a well-toned overall physical appearance. Yes, routinely exercising is a crucial factor in not only your overall health as it supports your heart, lungs, nervous system, brain and can even reduce chronic pain; it also lowers the risk of potential diseases. Exercise is that powerful.

While the physiological benefits of staying fit are indisputable, it’s often the emotional benefits of exercise that can go under the radar. Maybe that’s because we don’t literally see our emotions. When we look in the mirror, the first thing we do is judge our physical appearance. The hair, the skin, and the weight are easy to criticize and heavily focus on. But our physicality is only a fraction of what makes up a whole person.

At the core of each of you is essentially what makes you tick and is ultimately what has the most control over that physicality reflected in the mirror or standing on the scale. So the mind is way more powerful and influential to your well-being than you may give it credit. It’s a strong, resilient mental and emotional self that should essentially drive you in the direction you want to go.

10 Emotional Benefits of Exercise

According to research, physical and mental benefits of exercise have a multitude of positive effects on mood and emotional well-being, including anxiety, stress and depression, The study says:

Exercise has also been shown to reduce inflammation … which can contribute to better health outcomes in people suffering from mood disorders.

Exercising also promotes the production of endorphin levels throughout the body. The higher our endorphins, the less we feel stressed.

Essentially this means that physical activity creates chemical changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and improve overall mood. This enables a person to not only manage and cope with stress better, but has a risidual effect on many other aspects of life. With a decrease in stress hormones, there is an increase in productivity, positivity, social comfort (more on social benefit of physical activity later) and even our sense of calmness.

Part of the increase in mood and positivity is due to the boost in energy that exercise provides. This is especially critical to people who suffer with medical conditions that affect energy, such as chronic fatigue. When we are deficient on energy, everything suffers. Work, relationships, sex life, social life, our goals, all take a back seat in what can come to feel like a sluggish, unproductive journey through life.

It’s important to recognize the interconnectedness among exercise, physical activity and the human condition. Being active creates a web of benefits. For example, when you consistently increase physical activity, your quality of sleep improves. If you workout in the evening, just be sure to leave a reasonable gap (about three hours) between exercising and turning in for the night.

While we talk about the emotional benefits of exercise, we highlight the fact that physical activity promotes better physical health which ultimately benefits your mental well-being. When you suffer from chronic pain or illness, it’s challenging to maintain a positive outlook. So staying in the best shape possible will not only help, it is critical. Regular exercise even helps to reduce the frequency of common colds and the effects of seasonal allergies.

Finally, one of the most meaningful emotional benefits of exercise has to do with self-image. Committing to a regular workout routine or any physical activity, like a brisk daily walk for example, promotes a commitment to self-care and feelings of accomplishment. Back to those endorphin that boost mood and energy? Well this all connects to improved productivity which in turn leads to feeling better about yourself and more self-confident.

Generally speaking, doing everything you can to live longer and healthier, your mindset and attitude improve expotentially. Again, the interconnectedness of benefits you feel when you have an exercise routine and are physically pro-active are everything. This bodily harmony helps you to stay engaged with prioritizing your well-being and thus living your best life.

Recap: The 10 Emotional Benefits of Exercise:

Emotional benefits and self-confidence from exercise
  1. Boosts Energy
  2. Improves Mood
  3. Promotes Better Sleep
  4. Reduces Inflammation
  5. Supports Mental Health
  6. Makes You More Productive
  7. Helps Social Life
  8. Uplifts Mindset and Attitude
  9. Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression
  10. Increases Positive Self-Image and Self-Esteem

Social Benefit of Physical Activity

While the emotional benefits of exercise are substantial, the physical upside … a given, there’s another positive bi-product that is also critical. The social benefits of physical activity are super worthwhile to point out. It’s comparable to basic math. Embodying a more positive outlook on life due to the physiological benefits of exercise will more likely make you happy and socially proactive. Feeling good about yourself derives from a healthy self-esteem. This positive mindset will likely make you less socially anxious, more outgoing in social situations and improve your existing relationships.

Exercise and mental health research also explore the benefits participation in organized or community sports, or on a smaller level like exercise classes. Involvement in group physical activities allow you the opportunity to mingle with others who share in a common interest, while staying in shape of course. It’s certainly a win-win.

Aside from group sports, just being in an environment with like minds will benefit you emotionally and mentally as well. But whether you have a gym membership or workout on your own home gym, the measurable increase in self-esteem and energy you experience will have a significantly positive impact on your social life.

Having a more positive outlook on yourself and life, due to regular physical activity, will make you more likely to be proactive in your relationships. Feeling good about who you are inside and out will help you to be more outgoing in social situations.

For many, just reaching out and making the first move to get together with someone can be extremely difficult. If you suffer from social anxiety, entering a room full of strangers, acquaintances, or yes even people you consider your friends, can cause severe stress, insecurity and nervousness. Enjoying a social life is a very fulfilling part of life.

Another social benefit to keep in mind is from a business standpoint. While we go to work to make a living, maintaining productive, meaningful relationships with your colleagues, those who report to you, your managers or superiors, and networking opportunities in your industry, all have a critical impact on not only your success but your happiness.

After all, look at the amount of time we spend on the job. In many cases, we spend more time at work than we do at home or with our loved ones. It’s crucial to not just go through the motions but enjoy healthy professional relationships too. Take advantage of organized social-fitness opportunities through your job. Perhaps participating at a bowling event, golf tournament or on a company baseball team is just what you need to get social with people not associated with your personal life.

Recap: The 5 Social Benefits of Physical Activity:

  1. Decreases Social Anxiety
  2. Engage More in Social Situations
  3. Ability to Be Socially Outgoing in Order to Network
  4. Achieve Fulfilling Professional Relationships
  5. Enjoy Opportunities to Connect with Like-Minded People

Why is Exercise Good for Stress?

Stress is toxic to not only your mind but your body and spirt. When a person is stressed out, nothing “seems” to be going right. It’s like looking through a fogged up window, it’s so difficult to have a clear vision. When your brain is overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, your body ultimately suffers. Muscles tense up, joints stiffen, fatigue sets in, your gut health is affected and concentration diminishes. Even after a stressful situation has been resolved, the physical repercussions can be detrimentally long-lasting.

Remember we talked about your brain’s natural calming chemical, endorphins? The chemicals your brain produces as a result of working out, or any moderate physical exercise, are scientifically proven to reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Thus being in a calm state, and having a clear head, is what helps us to cope and navigate through stressful times.

While your first instinct when you want to relieve stress may be to relax, veg out or take a spa day (not that there’s anything wrong with that in the short term), believe it or not, it’s the physical activity that will truly help give you back balance. Ultimately, it is generating that important physiological reaction that will bring your body into a more peaceful, positive and calm state. Specifically, exercise has a scientific way of relieving stress.

So not only does working out redirect tension and negative physical energy, it shifts your mental focus as well. While exercise is good for stress relief because it increases blood flow to your muscles, relieves tensions, reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that can damage your heart and immune system, it produces those natural painkiller endorphins to uplift your mood and give you clarity.

In doing that math again, so to speak, the combination of both the physical and mental benefits of exercise is what makes your overall well-being the best it can be.

Simple, informative, quick (and sorry corny) video on how exercise benefits the brain and mental health. Take a look!

Building Emotional Strength and Resilience – Get Physical and Enjoy the Benefits

What do we really know for sure? That staying in shape is more than just staying in shape. Working to achieve good health in mind, body and spirit is the key to a balanced life. So know these two facts: commitment to optimizing your physical health with a positive mental attitude is critical; just as commitment to optimizing your emotional health with physical activity and exercise. It’s an even swap of benefits. Picture the cogs of a well-oiled, productive physiological machine. You can only successfully transfer energy and motion by fully engaging with the necessary components of all parts of your body.

So thanks to exercise and mental health research, we know how and why exercise and physical activity, eating right, getting quality sleep and practicing mindfulness are extremely important to managing stress, social wellness and just daily living in general. Exercise empowers you with the mindset and resiliency you need to manage and relieve stress, maintain healthy personal and social relationships and live a long, abundant life.


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  1. Awesome information.

  2. The benefits for improving your brain health, weight management, reducing disease, strengthening your bones and muscles, and improving your ability to do everyday activities especially for if you have not been physically active in a while, it can be challenging to get started again. Physical activity is really critical to social and emotional health – great insight and writing.

  3. I know a few people who could really benefit from this article. We can’t dispute the fact that there are just so many benefits (physical, psychological, emotional, social, etc!) to staying active! The hard thing sometimes is to just push yourself enough to get started. Love this!

    • Love information like this thank you. Physical activity is so powerful to improving and keeping emotional and social health in balance.

  4. Thanks for the very informative and motivating post! I love working out at least 3 days a week and know that when I don’t get my workout in, I can feel it.

  5. This is a great post! Honestly, I can’t start my day without a good workout to kick it all off or I’m in a mood all day long. It helps me wake up and puts me in a good mindset for the day to come.

  6. I agree with the networking aspect of physical activity. I have noticed that alot of conferences I attend have fitness activities and mixers as part of the agenda. Nice post!

  7. So many benefits to physical activity! I know when I miss a workout I can tell a difference. Great post!

  8. Honestly this is just the post i needed to read because ive been having trouble finding motivation to work out again. I just had a baby two months ago so its easy for me to make excuses but this has been a great reminder!

  9. I try and get my yoga in at least 6 times a week. When I started doing yoga in Feb I was at a losing end. I was so ill, both mentally and physically. Now, after 3-ish months of practice, I feel far better in myself 😀

  10. I do my best to make it to the athletic club three times a week. Your post will help keep me motivated. Thanks!

  11. I love this I didn’t know all of these benefits of exercising. This was such a great in depth post. I will save this – thanks so much!

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