• Ashburton FP

Exercise & Emotional Wellbeing in the Time of COVID

You may have heard of the term “runner’s high”, but do you know what this actually means? It relates to the feeling of immense happiness following exercise, due to the release of endorphins in your brain.

However, the benefits of exercise aren’t limited to immediately after a workout. Studies have shown that for mild-moderate depression, exercise can be JUST as effective as psychotherapy (talking to counsellor) and medication!

The ways in which exercise improves your mental health include;

  • Promoting the release of “happy” chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin & dopamine

  • Improving your sleep at night, allowing you to feel more energised during the day

  • Imparts a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence & self-efficacy as you begin to reach your fitness goals

  • Provide a means to reduce stress & clear your mind

  • A means to connect with others & develop your social life, hence reducing feelings of isolation & loneliness

If you’re new to working out, here are some great tips to get started!

  1. Start Small - if you’ve never worked out before, take BABY steps. For example, start with a 10minute walk. When you feel up to it, add another 5 minutes until you build up to 30minutes. For the biggest benefit, aim for 30-40 mins of moderate intensity exercise (tough to hold a conversation), on most days of the week. But don’t freak out. You can take as LONG as you need to get there. All that matters is that you are slowly increasing your routine each week.

  2. Set SMART Goals - SMART Goals are “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Timely”. An example of a SMART Goal could be “In 3 months, I want to be able to run 5km, 3 times a week”. SMART Goals make it easier to envision, plan towards & achieve your goals.

  3. Make It Part of Your Routine - by scheduling exercise at a set time each day/week, you are less likely to “talk yourself out of it” or organise things that get in the way of your allotted time. It’s important to remember that sticking to an exercise regime relies on DISCIPLINE, rather than motivation/willpower. Motivation will fluctuate from day to day, but discipline is what keeps you consistent.

  4. Find a Mode of Exercise You Enjoy - just because everyone seems to be going through an “F45 Craze” (at least, before restrictions closed all F45 studios down), doesn’t mean that you have to force yourself to do it too! Do what YOU enjoy doing, as that way, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. If you hate running, try swimming or cycling. If you can’t stand lifting weights, try pilates or yoga.

  5. Include Others In Your Journey - whether this be a personal trainer, your family or a workout partner, involving others in your workout routine (virtually during COVID, but physically after restrictions are over) can help keep you accountable & make your workouts more fun!

  6. Be KIND To Yourself - there will be times when you miss a workout. Accept this and move on, instead of giving up

If you’re struggling to get motivated, or want to learn more, check out this clip to listen to all the many ways in which exercise can benefit your mental health!

https://drchatterjee.com/is-there-anything-better-than-movement-for-transforming-the-way-that-you-feel-best-of-2019/

And as always, our doctors at Ashburton Family Practice would love nothing more than to help you out on your journey to better health. Book a Telehealth Appointment with us today so we can help you get started on your fitness journey and help you REAP THE MENTAL BENEFITS of exercise!



  1. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supporting-yourself/exercise-your-way-to-good-mental-health

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22486393/

  3. https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/6-managingdepressionwithexercise.pdf?sfvrsn=6&sfvrsn=6

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