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Move for your mood

This resource is provided in partnership with ParticipACTION, a national non-profit organization that inspires and supports people to make physical activity a vital part of their everyday life. 

How physical activity affects mental health

When you get active, your body releases endorphins, dopamine and serotonin – feel-good chemicals that reduce feelings of pain and increase feelings of pleasure, literally boosting your mood!

Getting the recommended 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity per week also reduces the levels of stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline – circulating in our bodies1. Plus, physical activity can help reduce physical tension, improve our ability to cope with stressful situations, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and even increase self-esteem2 and feelings of self-worth3.

Research4 also shows that physically active people are more satisfied with their lives and that exercise itself is strongly linked to happiness. In fact, within just five minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, you are likely to experience mood-enhancing effects.

All of the above makes physical activity an essential part of our mental wellness toolkits!

Key mental health benefits of physical activity

Older Black women in a dance class.

Boosted mood

Throw out your bad vibes by getting active! It’s no secret that many of us are feeling worried, stressed and isolated. It helps to focus on what we can directly and immediately influence…like our mood.

Learn more about boosting your mood with physical activity.

A South Asian man doing stretches in his home.

Reduced stress

Feeling overwhelmed? Pained with headaches and knots in your neck and shoulders? Mind racing at the end of the day? It’s time to get active so you can unwind!

Learn more about reducing stress through physical activity.

A white woman meditating in her home.

Improved mindfulness

As the stimulation and connectivity of our increasingly digital lives continues to expand, so too has the need to slow down, breathe and reconnect with ourselves through mindfulness.

Learn more about being more mindful through physical activity.

An older white woman holding hands with an older white man as they walk outside in the spring.

Increased self-esteem

Research shows that participating in moderate exercise regularly will increase your self-esteem. This increase in self-esteem is not linked to how you look. Instead, it’s directly connected to the act of exercising itself.

Learn more about prioritizing self-acceptance.

Steps towards wellness

Whether it be walking, wheeling, jogging, swimming, dancing, yoga or sports, do activities that truly bring you joy, because the best types of physical activity for mental health are the ones that you will stick with.

Studies show that exposure to nature is linked to many benefits, including lower stress levels, boosted moods and even upticks in empathy and cooperation. Going on a short walk, wheel or jog during your lunch break is an excellent way to start.

Whenever you feel anxious or stressed, try going for a walk, wheel or jog around the block, or engage in a relaxing yoga session. Getting active can not only act as a temporary distraction but also be a great way to clear your head and decrease tension.

Consistency is the key to reaping the mental health benefits of physical activity. Try sneaking movement into your daily or weekly schedule and make an effort to follow through with these appointments to help make it a habit.

Join group fitness classes, sports teams, walking groups or online communities where you can connect with like-minded people who are interested in physical activity. Like movement, social interaction and connection make your body release additional feel-good chemicals that can help you further boost your mood and feel less isolated.

Resources provided by Wellness Together Canada

Explore other ways to increase your activity and improve your overall wellness. The following resources are provided by Wellness Together Canada and our partner organizations.

Managing substance useManaging low moodSuccess/coping with stress
Managing low moodSuccess/coping with stressManaging worry
Managing low moodManaging worrySuccess/coping with stress

Resources provided by ParticipACTION

Want more tips to help you move for your mood?

Follow ParticipACTION on social media for motivation and giveaways. Subscribe to their monthly newsletter to receive their latest blog posts and exercise videos.

Technical resources


Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA)
MVPA is intense enough to increase heart rate and raise body temperature. With MVPA, a person can talk but is unable to sing.

Examples: running, jumping rope, tennis, swimming

Stress hormones
Stress hormones are chemicals released by your body when you are feeling under pressure. When you have high levels of these chemicals for a long time they can damage your physical and emotional health.

Physical tension
Physical tension is one way that your body responds to stress. When you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, your muscles become tighter. You may notice yourself doing things like clenching your jaw or hunching your shoulders.

Empathy is the ability to understand how other people are feeling.

Digital lives
Our digital lives are made up of the time we spend using the internet and the interactions we have with other people online. This can include things like reading websites, watching videos and talking to people on social media.

Additional sources

  1. Amanda L. Rebar, Robert Stanton, David Geard, Camille Short, Mitch J. Duncan & Corneel Vandelanotte. A meta-meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populationsHealth Psychology Review. 9:3, 366-378. (2015)

  2. Seyed Hojjat Zamani Sani, Zahra Fathirezaie, Serge Brand, Uwe Pühse, Edith Holsboer-Trachsler, Markus Gerber & Siavash Talepasand. Physical activity and self-esteem: testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanismsNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 12: 2617-2625. (2016).

  3. Reddon H, Meyre D, Cairney J. Physical Activity and Global Self-worth in a Longitudinal Study of Children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Aug;49(8):1606-1613. DOI: 10.1249/mss.0000000000001275. (2017)

  4. Zhang, Z., Chen, W. A Systematic Review of the Relationship Between Physical Activity and HappinessJournal of Happiness Studies. 20, 1305–1322. (2019)