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Exercise and your mental health

Regular exercise is proven to improve mental health. You will feel, sleep, and look better if you get active.

Keeping active helps protect both your physical and mental health. Regular exercise will help you sleep, relax and feel better. Exercise helps reduce stress and boosts your energy levels. It can also be a good way to meet people and get more involved in your community.

Physical activity can cause chemical changes in the brain. These changes help to improve your mood. Exercise is especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.

Your exercise routine

Any exercise is useful, as long as it is suited to your ability and you do enough of it. Exercise should be something you enjoy. There are many different ways to exercise, so find something you like. Otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it every day.

Moderate and vigorous activities

  • Moderate activities will feel like your heart is beating faster than normal and your breathing is harder than normal.
  • Vigorous activities will feel like your heart is beating much faster than normal and breathing is much harder than normal.

Children and young people (aged 2 to 18)

Children and young people should be active for at least 60 minutes every day. This should be at a moderate (average energy) to vigorous (full of energy) level.

Adults (aged 18 to 64)

Adults should be active for at least 30 minutes every day. This should be at moderate intensity on 5 days a week (or 150 minutes a week).

Older people (aged 65 and over)

Older people should be active for at least 30 minutes every day. This should be at a moderate intensity on 5 days a week (or 150 minutes a week). The focus should be on aerobic activity, muscle strengthening and balance.

Adults with disabilities

People with disabilities should be as active as their ability allows. Aim to meet adult guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on 5 days a week.

How to get started

Find an activity you can do every day. You can take part in a team sport, attend classes at a leisure centre, or be more active in your daily routine. Try walking or cycling instead of travelling by car or public transport.

Build up your fitness

Start at your own pace and aim to build up to 20 or 30 minutes of exercise every day. Improve your motivation by trying group activities or ask a friend to join you.

If you prefer to exercise alone, you can also track your activity and set yourself challenges.

Getting help

Talk with your GP if you haven't exercised for a long time, or if you're worried about the effects of exercise on your health. Your GP can help you decide what type of activity will suit you, especially if you are taking any medication.

Page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
Next review due: 23/09/2021

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