Discover the 7 Advantages of Exercising While Building Your Mental Health Practice.
April 16, 2024

As mental health practitioners, we often prioritize the well-being of others, but it’s equally important to take care of our own mental health. Engaging in regular exercise is one way to do so. 

Working out doesn’t only benefit your physical health; it also plays a significant role in supporting our mental well-being. Wonder how this works and whether it’s remotely relevant to your mental health practice at all? 

Here are seven remarkable benefits of exercise for mental health professionals, backed by scientific data.

1. Managing stress, anxiety and depression

Exercise is a powerful tool for managing and relieving stress, which is crucial when working in the mental health field. Of course, you’d agree that supporting others in navigating their difficult psychiatric problems can sometimes leave you stressed at the end of the day. 

Exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural mood elevators that help reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being.

So whenever you go on that jug or do some squats, it’s the endorphins that make you suddenly feel so good about yourself.

Several studies indicate that regular exercise works just as well as medication in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression in some people, providing a natural and effective stress management strategy. 

Perhaps, aside from therapy and meds, you could recommend exercise to your patients with anxiety and depression.

2. Generating creative ideas

Did you know that physical exercise can stimulate creativity and generate fresh ideas?

A study by Stanford University found that walking (considered a light-intensity exercise) can boost creative thinking by enhancing divergent thinking, which involves generating multiple creative solutions.

This is what happens when you go on a walk when you feel in over your head.

So, going for a walk or participating in a workout session can be an excellent way for mental health professionals to tap into their creative potential and develop innovative approaches to therapy. 

You might just discover the key to helping that patient who has been treatment-resistant. 

3. Opportunity to reset and refresh your mind

This draws from the previous point.

As mental health practitioners, our minds are often occupied with the concerns of our clients. Exercise provides a much-needed opportunity to reset and refresh our chaotic minds. 

You see, physical activity allows us to shift our focus away from work-related stressors and provides a mental break, enabling us to return to our practice with renewed energy and clarity.

4. Challenging your body

Setting and accomplishing goals can boost self-confidence and instill a sense of accomplishment, which can positively impact our overall mental well-being. And regular exercise allows mental health professionals to set and achieve goals related to their physical fitness. 

Whether it’s improving endurance, strength training, or trying a new exercise routine, these physical challenges can provide a sense of purpose and motivation, translating into increased confidence and resilience in our professional lives as well. Whether in the early days of your practice or when you’re already established and seeking new challenges.

5. Exercise releases serotonin and dopamine

Serotonin is often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone, as it contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. Dopamine, on the other hand, is involved in reward-motivated behavior and is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. 

Regular exercise has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine levels, leading to improved mood, reduced anxiety, and a greater sense of overall well-being. Who doesn’t need that? 

When growing your mental health practice during the early phase, you want to be in your best mood, as these times can be quite challenging. You need every positive emotion you can muster to crush those challenges with a straight face. And thankfully, exercise proves to be the cheapest weapon to achieve that.

6. Role modeling through self-care

Did you know that every mental health specialist ought to be a role model to their patients? You want to exude feelings of confidence, happiness, and overall well-being. You push your clients to achieve these things, so you want to embody them as well. 

Regular exercise is a powerful act of self-care that demonstrates your commitment to maintaining good mental and physical health. By prioritizing exercise, you set an example for your clients, inspiring them to prioritize their own well-being. 

Being a positive role model in terms of self-care can enhance your credibility and influence as a mental health practitioner.

7. Developing empathy and compassion

You’d agree that empathy and compassion are two essential qualities every mental health professional should possess. But did you know that something as seemingly unrelated as exercise can help build these qualities? The key lies in engaging in group exercise classes. 

Participating in group activities boosts social connectedness. The more you interact with people and experience their triumphs and emotions shared during workout classes, the more you create deeper connections that you can translate to your clients, enhancing that therapeutic relationship.

Final thoughts

We cannot mince words; the body and mind work as one. Keeping in touch with your bodily needs through exercise enhances your overall well-being, which can contribute to your professional growth.

And especially as a mental health professional who tries to bring the best out of their patients by ridding them of stress, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions, you must be the best version of yourself mentally. Engaging in regular physical activity remains a proven key to that.