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A Comprehensive Systematic Literature Review on the Effects of Exercise on Mental Health

A Comprehensive Systematic Literature Review on the Effects of Exercise on Mental Health


Exercise has long been known for its physical health benefits, but its impact on mental health has gained increasing attention in recent years. This comprehensive systematic literature review aims to provide an overview of the effects of exercise on mental health by examining relevant studies.


To conduct this literature review, various electronic databases such as PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar were searched using specific keywords related to exercise and mental health. Only peer-reviewed articles published in English between 2010 and 2021 were included.


Numerous studies have investigated the effects of exercise on various aspects of mental health, including depression, anxiety, stress, and overall psychological well-being. The findings from these studies consistently suggest that exercise has a positive impact on mental health.

Effects on Depression

Multiple studies have shown that engaging in regular physical activity can reduce symptoms of depression. Exercise helps release endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural mood lifters. Moreover, IT promotes neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, which may play a role in alleviating depressive symptoms.

Effects on Anxiety

Exercise has also been found to be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Physical activity raises the brain’s serotonin and norepinephrine levels, neurotransmitters that regulate mood and anxiety. Exercise can serve as a distraction from anxious thoughts and provides a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and reducing anxiety levels.

Effects on Stress

Regular exercise has been associated with decreased stress levels. Exercise helps stimulate the production of endorphins and reduces stress hormones such as cortisol. Engaging in physical activity can also provide a break from daily stressors and serve as a coping mechanism, promoting overall stress reduction.

Effects on Overall Psychological Well-being

Beyond specific mental health conditions, exercise has a general positive impact on overall psychological well-being. IT promotes a sense of purpose, enhances self-esteem, and improves body image, leading to increased life satisfaction and happiness. Physical activity has also been associated with better cognitive function and memory.


This comprehensive systematic literature review highlights the numerous beneficial effects of exercise on mental health. Regular physical activity has been consistently associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, decreased stress levels, and improved overall psychological well-being. Incorporating exercise into daily routines can be a valuable strategy for improving mental health.


1. How much exercise is needed to see mental health benefits?

The recommended amount of exercise for mental health benefits is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. However, even low levels of physical activity can contribute to mental well-being.

2. Can exercising outdoors provide additional mental health benefits?

Exercising outdoors has been shown to have additional positive effects on mental health. Spending time in nature and being exposed to natural light can enhance mood and reduce stress levels. Outdoor activities such as hiking or gardening can also provide a sense of connection with the environment.

3. Are there any potential risks of exercising for mental health?

In general, exercise is considered safe and beneficial for mental health. However, individuals with certain mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or psychosis, should consult with a healthcare professional before starting an exercise program. IT is always important to listen to your body and engage in activities that you enjoy and feel comfortable with.