TEEN: Effects of Exercise on Mental Health

You don’t have to be experienced to go to the gym: Everyone is welcome.


Gym Bros! Photo credit: Indigo Graves

As the winter months creep by, many people find themselves struggling with mental health, especially teens. Teens nowadays have it pretty rough. Although there are ways to help yourself through the cold weather and dark days, sometimes it is hard to know where to start. Going to the gym can be terrifying to think about, but the environment of a gym is so welcoming, and exercise is a tremendously beneficial practice.

Exercise isn’t only good for your physical health, but also your mental health. Here are just five ways exercise can boost your psychological health:

  • improved mood
  • improved self-esteem
  • increased energy
  • better social life
  • reduced stress

According to the National Library of Medicine, exercise increases blood flow to the brain, resulting in alteration of the limbic system, which controls mood and stress. When working out, neurotransmitters are released throughout your nervous system. The most common neurotransmitters are endorphins—chemical signals to the brain that block the perception of pain and increase feelings of happiness. Another neurotransmitter is dopamine, which plays a role in how we feel pleasure. The body makes dopamine, and the nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells via four major pathways in the brain.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources says that exercise can help with social anxiety or isolation by exposing a person to others who are also working on their fitness journeys and bonding over the shared experience. Exercise can even heighten your overall self-confidence, especially in your physical appearance.

I decided to interview a few people at the gym. Here are the questions I asked:

  • How long have you been going to the gym?
  • Why did you start?
  • How has working out affected you mentally?
  • What would you say to someone who wanted to start working out?

Responses to the first question ranged from “three years” to “It was my New Year’s resolution.” The second response makes it evident that you don’t have to be experienced to go to the gym: Everyone is welcome. People expressed different reasons for working out. Some wanted to improve their physical appearance and some wanted to work on their physical capabilities during the off-season of their sport, but many others were exercising to improve their mental health and confidence. Interviewees who had been going to the gym for an extended period of time had noticed a significant positive change in their mental health. Conversely, others said they noticed a negative effect if they missed just one day of exercise.

Advice for those who want to start going to the gym included:

  • “You have nothing to lose”
  • “Start with small goals and big determination”
  • “Do it for yourself and no one else”

I have my own advice for people who are self-conscious about making mistakes and people looking at them or judging them. I promise that everyone is so worried about themselves at the gym that they aren’t paying attention to you!

I am a regular gym goer. Going to the gym has kept me physically active and mentally motivated while also resulting in rewarding outcomes. For example, I have created many new friendships and developed strong confidence in my capabilities and in my appearance.

If you want to start going to the gym, there are facilities at the new Greenbrier Valley Aquatic Center, North and South Greenbrier Valley Fitness, and the Fitness Center in White Sulphur Springs. Reach out to someone who already goes if you are nervous!

North: (304) 645-4000

South: (304) 647-3982

White Sulphur: (855) 453-4858

Aquatic Center: (681) 484-7037