Home / Link between physical and mental health

Link between physical and mental health


As we embark on Mental Health Awareness Week, it is imperative to reflect on the comprehensive strategies that underpin effective mental health advocacy and support. Oxfordshire Mind remains at the forefront of this endeavour, emphasising the symbiotic relationship between mental and physical well-being. This blog delves into the significant interplay between physical health and mental health, exploring how one’s physiological state can profoundly influence psychological wellness. By understanding and harnessing this connection, individuals can adopt a more holistic approach to mental health care, one that incorporates physical activity as a pivotal element in maintaining and enhancing mental well-being. This discourse not only aligns with contemporary health paradigms but also reinforces Oxfordshire Mind’s commitment to fostering an environment where mental health is accessible, understood, and prioritised.

The Science Behind the Connection

The interdependence of physical and mental health is rooted in a complex biochemical landscape within our bodies. Engaging in regular physical activity triggers a cascade of neurochemical events that significantly benefit mental health. Here’s how this happens:

  • Endorphin Release: Exercise prompts the release of endorphins, often referred to as the body’s “feel-good” hormones. These natural painkillers not only alleviate physical discomfort but also produce a sense of euphoria, colloquially known as the “runner’s high,” which can combat stress and anxiety.
  • Stress Reduction: Physical activity reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. By moderating these hormone levels, exercise helps stabilise moods and reduce stress, contributing to clearer thought processes and improved mental resilience.
  • Neurogenesis: Regular physical activity stimulates the production of neurotrophic factors, which aid in the creation of new neural connections in the brain. This process is especially prominent in the hippocampus, an area crucial for memory and learning, suggesting that exercise can enhance cognitive functions and potentially ward off cognitive decline.
  • Circadian Rhythm Regulation: Engaging in physical activities, especially when done consistently at the same time every day, helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms. Better sleep patterns not only improve physical health but are crucial for mental well-being, influencing mood and energy levels throughout the day.

Benefits of Physical Activity on Mental Health

Physical activity extends its benefits beyond physical health and plays a crucial role in improving mental well-being. Here are some of the key mental health benefits of engaging in regular physical exercise:

  • Reduction in Anxiety and Depression: Studies have consistently shown that regular physical activity can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Activities like jogging, swimming, cycling, and even brisk walking increase the concentration of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
  • Enhanced Mood: Exercise leads to an immediate elevation in mood, thanks to the release of endorphins. This chemical uplift can help alleviate feelings of sadness or depression. Over time, regular physical activity helps cultivate a more positive outlook on life and a healthier mental state.
  • Improved Self-Esteem: Regular participation in physical activities can boost self-esteem and self-image. As individuals notice improvements in strength, endurance, and body shape, their self-perception improves, which is a significant boost to mental health.
  • Increased Brain Sensitivity for Serotonin and Norepinephrine: Physical activity helps increase the sensitivity of the brain to serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression. Additionally, exercise can also stimulate the production of dopamine, another neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood and pleasure.
  • Stress Relief: Engaging in physical exercise provides a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety. The repetitive motions involved in exercise promote a focus on your body’s movements, often producing a calming, meditative effect.
  • Cognitive Benefits: Regular physical activity, especially in older adults, can boost mental performance. Studies have shown improvements in thinking and memory in individuals who participate in cardiovascular exercise, indicating that physical health is deeply interconnected with cognitive health.

Practical Tips for Incorporating Physical Activity into Daily Routine

Incorporating physical activity into our daily lives can sometimes seem challenging, but with some simple strategies, it can become an enjoyable and integral part of our daily routine. Here are practical tips to help make physical activity a regular habit:

  • Start Small: If you’re new to exercising or restarting after a break, begin with small, achievable goals. For instance, a 10-minute walk each day can be a great start. Gradually increase the duration and intensity as your fitness improves.
  • Choose Activities You Enjoy: The key to sticking with an exercise routine is to find activities that you truly enjoy. Whether it’s dancing, hiking, yoga, or team sports, enjoying your workouts makes it more likely that you’ll stick with them long-term.
  • Set Regular Times: Schedule your workouts as you would any important appointment. Consistency helps to establish exercise as a habit. Try to exercise at the same time every day—whether it’s morning jogs or evening walks—to help cement this habit.
  • Use Technology: Leverage technology to stay on track. Fitness trackers, smartphone apps, and even simple reminders can motivate you to move more. They can also help you monitor your progress and stay committed to your fitness goals.
  • Make It Social: Involve friends or family members in your exercise routine. Working out with others can make the activity more fun and increase your commitment to your exercise routine. Community or group activities can also offer support and motivation.
  • Stay Flexible: Some days, fitting in a workout might not be possible. If you miss a session, don’t get discouraged—flexibility is part of developing a lasting exercise habit. Adapt your schedule as needed and get back on track as soon as you can.

Resources and Support Available Through Oxfordshire Mind

Oxfordshire Mind is dedicated to supporting the community in embracing physical activity as a key component of mental health. To facilitate this, several resources and programs are available:

  • Programs and Workshops: Oxfordshire Mind offers a variety of programs and workshops that focus on integrating physical health into mental health care. These range from guided physical activities to educational workshops that teach the benefits of exercise for mental well-being.
  • Support Groups: Participating in support groups can provide motivation and encouragement to maintain an active lifestyle. These groups often include people with similar health goals and challenges, making it easier to find support and understanding within the community.
  • Online Resources: A wealth of online resources, including instructional videos, motivational tips, and exercise plans, are available through the Oxfordshire Mind website. These resources are designed to help individuals start and maintain a physically active lifestyle at their own pace and convenience.


Understanding and utilising the link between physical and mental health is essential for holistic well-being. This Mental Health Awareness Week, Oxfordshire Mind encourages everyone to take a step toward incorporating physical activity into their daily routine. Whether through small, individual steps or community involvement, the benefits of such activities extend far beyond physical health, enhancing mental wellness and overall quality of life. Let’s move together towards a healthier, happier future.