Physical Activity: Impact on Mental Wellness, Alertness & Productivity

There are a number of studies that support the notion of physical activity (PA) playing an important role in moderate health diseases, such as depression and anxiety. Both aerobic exercise and strength training have been shown to decrease depressive symptoms significantly (Paluska & Schwenk, 2000).

People with depression are generally less physically active and more de-conditioned than people not suffering this condition, but there is a positive relationship between physical activity levels and improved mental health.  

A study by Paluska & Schwenk (2000) revealed:

  • Regular physical activity can assist in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Aerobic, strength and flexibility training appear equally effective for treating depressive and anxiety symptoms
  • Understanding that PA is the important part, rather than fitness goals
  • Once an exercise regime is commenced, adherence rates for depressed individuals is similar to healthy populations
  • PA improves the symptoms of the disorder without significant risks
  • Any symptoms of overtraining need to be addressed promptly


Outdoor Yoga on the lawns of University Ave for World Mental Health Day


Given that there are benefits to training for people that have mental health issues as previously addressed, what are the benefits to your studies or workplace if you are physically active and training regularly? Here are just a few:

  • Higher levels of physical fitness result in people less likely to get sick - resulting in reduced absenteeism from work and/or study
  • Higher levels of fitness result in having more energy, a better focus on tasks and higher levels of concentration
  • Increased levels of self-confidence - resulting in a feeling of empowerment and the desire to challenge your limits at work or academically
  • Higher achieving employees take on leadership roles and enjoy the increased challenges
  • Increased fitness proves you are able to set and achieve goals, which is a valuable asset to your employer and realising your academic potential
  • Regular trainers tend to have better attitudes and this will generally mean you have attained a good physical and mental balance
  • Regular exercise reduces the physical and emotional tension that life throws at us
  • Fitter people tend to be able to inspire higher team building opportunities, as they want to be involved in most physical and work challenges, which defines them as a team player
  • Being pro-active in encouraging colleague’s participation demonstrates concern for others well-being and also builds a team bond.