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Train your brain: How physical fitness fuels mental wellbeing and agility


This Mental Health Week (13-19 May) Mesi Balog, founder of TreatYourStaff, discusses the relationship between physical fitness and mental wellbeing, long known to have a crucial correlation. Recent research in neuroscience has provided deeper insights into how exercise impacts brain functionality, focus, and our overall mental health. Let’s unveil the neuroscientific evidence on how body fitness positively influences cognitive function, attentional control and emotional regulation. The significance of including physical activity into our daily routine really can’t be emphasised enough in prevention of mental health issues…


Mesi Balog, founder of TreatYourStaff and the host of the Confidence Code Podcast (scroll down for more about the podcast)


Impact of physical fitness on brain functionality

Study shows that physical fitness positively influences various aspects of brain function, including cognitive abilities, memory consolidation, and executive functions. For example, individuals with higher levels of aerobic fitness will show higher cognitive performance and a reduced risk of cognitive decline compared to their less fit counterparts. Moreover, neuroimaging studies have revealed functional changes in the brain following exercise, such as increased gray matter volume in key regions involved in memory and learning.

Enhanced focus and attentional control

In addition to its effects on overall cognitive function, physical fitness has been shown to enhance focus and attentional control, allowing individuals to sustain attention on tasks for longer periods and resist distraction. Exercise promotes the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, and serotonin, which play crucial roles in regulating attention and mood.

Mental health and emotional regulation

Beyond its cognitive benefits, physical fitness is also associated with improved emotional regulation and resilience to stress. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones. These hormones can mitigate feelings of anxiety and depression and promote a sense of well-being. Furthermore, regular exercise has been shown to modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body’s primary stress response system, resulting in reduced physiological reactivity to stressors and enhanced stress resilience over time.

So how to start? Boost your mental health by moving more!

The 2024 theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’. We are encouraging everyone to take a moment to pause and create space mentally to plan and make a committed decision on how to boost their own mental health by moving more.

One of the most important things we can do to help protect our mental health is regular movement. Our bodies and our minds are connected. Looking after ourselves physically also helps us prevent problems with our mental health. Movement is a great way to enhance our wellbeing. Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking can boost our mood and increase our mental alertness and energy. Movement helps us feel better about our bodies and improve self-esteem. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety and help us sleep better.

We summarised a few key tips on how to find moments for movement every day:

  • Set small, achievable goals
  • Take a break from sitting
  • Find the fun
  • Connect with others
  • Movement looks different for everyone, don’t compare yourself to others
  • Be mindful about your movement
  • Moving in nature
  • Try something new
  • Plan things to look forward to
  • Listen to music that gets you moving
  • Be kind to yourself, moving more is self-care
  • Don’t forget to rest
  • Celebrate your achievements


Tips for moving more for your mental health (PDF)


Confidence Code Podcast

Listen to Mesi’s recent Confidence Code Podcast episode, in which she is discussing, with her guest Matt Holman, Founder of Simpila, the biggest challenges employees and employers are facing in mental health today. ‘Get up or Give up? The Magic in Mental Health’ available on Spotify and YouTube.


Mesi has also collaborated with nutritionist Amy Cottrell in this article about gut health, stress and focus.