Exercise and Mental Health

Not every person can tolerate modern psychotropic medications intended to treat many of these psychological conditions. At least 20% of people cannot tolerate medications for allergies or other reasons. Because of that, finding alternative solutions that can be adjusted to personal treatment plans is important. Exercise has many health benefits for both mind and body. You can find hundreds, if not thousands of articles touting both the anecdotal and empirical evidence to support maintaining physical health is a keystone for mental health. Anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and many more can be mitigated with regular physical activity. Coupled with different forms of therapy such as talk therapy, psychotherapy, meditation and mindfulness, support groups, and exercise compliments and boosts the positive outcomes. 

So many psychological issues are magnified by stress. In our modern society, it is next to impossible to avoid stress caused by internal and external factors. Internal factors can be feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger, and more. External factors such as work-life balance, getting proper nutrition, home life stability and more can sometimes be changed but might require some extra intervention. In both cases, stress acts as a volume knob for mental issues but especially for depression and anxiety which can result in an overall feedback loop. Intervening with therapy and exercise can break this cycle and give patients the space to breathe and focus on smaller issues without feeling like their head is underwater. 

Trails Carolina - exercise and mental health

One of the underreported benefits of regular exercise is that it helps create a routine. The brain is in constant tension between stress and relaxation. When we perform similar activities over and over again, the brain can recognize patterns and devote less energy to those activities. As we get more time to focus on problems over day-to-day things, we develop more clarity on how to approach the known stressors in our lives.  Essentially it turns on autopilot with muscle memory so that it can relax and think about other things. The longer one performs these actions, the quicker the routine develops. On average it takes 21 days to develop a routine, but once that is accomplished, the brain is able to maintain these habits for a long period of time. 

One thing to pay attention to is when a mental disorder can push exercise out of moderation and into dangerous levels. Certain individuals should be upfront with their therapist in order to make sure that they do not slide into obsessive thoughts regarding controlling their body or developing a dependency. Abuse of exercise can end up reversing some of the progress for mood and mental stabilization. 

Overall, exercise should always be incorporated into a wellness plan. It is always worth discussing with a mental health professional to coordinate on a reasonable plan of action to both not get overwhelmed and not develop a dependency. Learn more about how Trails Carolina incorporates these ideas into their mental health programs to encourage positive mental, physical, and emotional growth of teens.

Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: https://trailscarolina.com/common-ground-podcast/ With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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