Get active for mental wellbeing - Stress, anxiety and depression - NHS Choices

Stress, anxiety and depression

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Get active for mental wellbeing

Being active is great for your physical health and fitness, and evidence shows that it can also improve your mental wellbeing.

We think that the mind and body are separate. But what you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your mental wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing means feeling good – both about yourself and about the world around you. It means being able to get on with life in the way you want.

Evidence shows that there is a link between being physically active and good mental wellbeing.

Being active doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in the gym, if that doesn't appeal to you. Find physical activities that you enjoy and think about how to fit more of them into your daily life.

How exercise helps your mental wellbeing 

Scientists think that physical activity helps maintain and improve wellbeing in a number of ways.

Physical activity can help people with mild depression. Evidence shows that it can also help protect people against anxiety.

Physical activity is thought to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood.

Some scientists think that being active can improve wellbeing because it brings about a sense of greater self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge.

How you can get more active

If you want to get active, think about physical activity in the broadest sense.

It can help to read the physical activity guidelines for adults.

Adults aged 19 and over should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity – such as fast walking or cycling – a week.

Find activities that you enjoy, then make them a part of your life.

There's lots of information and advice on NHS Choices to help you get active.

More steps to mental wellbeing

Feel happier and enjoy life more with these five evidence-based steps for improving your mental wellbeing.

Or learn more about the other four steps for mental wellbeing here:


This is a 45-minute pilates workout suitable for beginners, improvers or anyone who wants to get back to basics.

Media last reviewed: 01/06/2016

Next review due: 10/03/2019

Page last reviewed: 06/01/2016

Next review due: 06/09/2018


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