85% of people exercise to boost or change their mood, according to research

As well as a physical outlet to keep us healthy, here's the science behind how exercise can boost your mood as well

Women high five in workout clothes
(Image credit: Getty)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a lot more people are tuning into their mental health and wellbeing. Exercise has become a saving grace for many and with this, there's been a growing trend of people looking for mood and mind-influencing workouts.

Apex, the makers behind one of the best stationary bikes on the market (check out our best exercise bikes guide to see them in the rankings), found in a recent survey that 85% of people now exercise with the specific aim of boosting or changing their mood. This suggests that people are increasingly making their psychological wellbeing - and not just their physical wellbeing, as you might expect - a priority when it comes to exercise.

Brands like Apex have been tapping into this need with specially-tailored workouts to help people stay positive. Exercise in general is a great mood-booster, but in order to really give yourself that kick of the brain's reward chemicals, HIIT workouts like spin classes seem to be a favorite. 

Last year’s lockdowns increased feelings of cabin fever. Exercising at home or in the garden was at least something to distract us from what was going on and to help us sleep after a day of languishing on the sofa or the office chair. 

However, we now have the opportunity to exercise in the gym again as well as at home or outdoors, and can rediscover new ways to achieve both physical and emotional gains from working out.

A man and woman smile as they run outdoors by a beach

(Image credit: Getty)

 How does this work? 

There are many different reasons why exercise can boost your mood. Take for example our guide on how to achieve the famous “runner's high”. This talks about a feeling of euphoria that occurs after a run, but it can also be experienced after any form of aerobic exercise. 

Completing a run or a heart-pumping HIIT session causes your brain to release a wave of chemicals into your blood, and included in these chemicals is dopamine. This chemical is also known as the “happy hormone”, and one that hugely contributes to the feeling of happiness and pleasure experienced after a workout.

If you don’t enjoy cardio then don’t think you are excluded from experiencing these mood boosting gains. Perhaps resistance training is more your thing. This 2018 study published in JAMA Psychiatry discovered that people with moderate depression who trained with weights three times a week saw significant improvements to their symptoms and overall mood. 

Powering through a set of weighted exercises can give off that same feeling of satisfaction and elation that the runners high talks about. Don’t have access to a gym nearby? Our best adjustable dumbbells are perfect for home lifting.

While we don't always recognise our mood lowering or notice an increase in anxious feelings before they occur, we can work through them if they do happen. This is why exercise is strongly advised - working out for our mind and body can majorly benefit our mood and mental wellbeing.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.