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7 Exercises to Improve Your Mood

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, MA, NCC

The notion that exercising can be relaxing is hard to grasp, but it is accurate. At first, you may have to tolerate it, but then as your physique improves and your mental capacities get the hang of it, it becomes pure bliss. A study established that exercising increases beta-endorphins in your blood. The presence of these neurochemicals causes psychological and physiological changes. One change echoed by many researchers is exercise-induced euphoria, which can last days after the workout. 

Another significant change induced by endorphins is they reduce the perception of pain. Research shows that exercise is good for pain management. It also inhibits hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for initiating and sustaining stress response in the body . Catecholamines such as adrenaline and hormones like cortisol have a central role in inducing anxiety and depression. They enhance depressive moods, negative thoughts, perceptions of impending danger, and mental duress. 

Endorphins stimulate the release of hormones such as serotonin, which increases happiness and satisfaction. The hormone’s impact on the sleep-wake cycle lets you rest well and have a full night’s sleep. It also improves your appetite and digestion. Your mental processes relax. Endorphins also trigger the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which inhibit the stress biochemicals – adrenaline and cortisol.  

Most studies on the impact of exercising in decreasing anxiety, depression, and cognitive and emotional improvement focus on moderate to acute long-term exercising. Of these workouts, aerobic exercises have the most impact on mood and emotion. Regarding emotion, exercise augments arousal – feeling energized. As for cognition, exercising improved attention, working memory, problem-solving, and inhibitory control. Working out is beneficial for overall health and well-being; thus, if you are looking to improve your mood and emotions, here are seven mood-boosting exercises you can try:


         Walking is an aerobic exercise known to improve cardiovascular health. It boosts your blood circulation, enabling your body tissues to receive oxygen and nutrients. It also prevents the formation of blood clots. Another advantage of this physical exercise is its ability to improve moods. Research has shown that walking – even on a gloomy day – boosts mood. It also concludes that movement reduces stress and depression. Nature walks in particular have an increased restorative effect on stress reduction and other psychophysiological responses, which should be reason enough to get out and get moving! 


         Similarly, cycling helps boost your blood circulation. In the process, it increases the transportation of endorphins to your brain. Endorphins stimulate the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which enhance moods feelings of happiness. 


         Running is another aerobic exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins, in turn, trigger the release of feel-good neurochemicals and hormones whose cumulative effect is stress reduction. A 30-minute run in nature or on a treadmill bas the potential to reduce symptoms associated with both depression and anxiety. Regular running also improves cognition.  

Weight Lifting

         The squat rack is not only good for your body but also your mind. According to research, strength training significantly reduces depression and anxiety. It also improves sleep, decreases fatigue, and improves cognition. These effects are also shown to be longer lasting. As it turns out, lifting weight gives you more than just toned muscles: It also improves your mood! 


         Burpees are a cardio exercise that enable you to build muscle and develop endurance in both your upper and lower body. This exercise can be done in the comfort of your home and utilizes the entire body. It has three activities wrapped into one: squat, jump and, pushup. Stand on your feet and squat, then place your hands on the floor. After this, thrust your legs backwards into a plank position and then do a pushup. Additionally, this physical exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins, which helps to combat your body’s stress response. Endorphins prompt the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These feel good chemicals enhance mood, reduces stress levels, boosts your cognition, and help to regulate emotions.  

Jumping Jacks

         Jumping jacks are another full-body workout that release endorphins. This particular exercise increases your heart rate and in the process boosts circulation. Improved circulation means an improved transfer of nutrients and endorphins to the target organs. This simple exercise entails jumping with legs apart and hands raised over the head. Shift your hand down and legs together on the subsequent jump.  

Toe Taps

         A Toe tap is a simple exercise which can be done on a stair or any slightly raised surface. You will face your chosen surface and then alternate tapping your toes from one foot on the surface followed by your toes from the other foot on the surface, alternating back and forth at a fast pace. Toe taps improve circulation in your lower limbs. They also trigger the release of endorphins, (which you should know by now….) improve mood! 

If you or someone you know would benefit from a mind-body approach to health, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling in Chicago today! 


Linden, David (n.d.). The Truth Behind Runners High and Other Mental Benefits of Running. Johns Hopkins Univeristy

Weir, Kirsten (2011). The Exercise Effect. The American Psychological Association

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