Parallels of Mental Health and Physical Fitness

Mental Health

The Parallels of Mental Health and Physical Fitness

Mental health draws various parallels from physical exercise. Emotions are one of the muscles that need exercise to have good mental fitness. What I mean by mental fitness is your ability to handle unwanted emotions in a healthy and positive manner. Another aspect of mental health is making consistent gains. Physical trainers are there to help people achieve their fitness goals, which differ from person to person. Similarly, mental health professionals are fitness junkies for the heart and mind. Not all physical trainers are created equal, and each comes with their own experiences and specialties. Later in this blog, we will cover in more detail the various aspects and parallels between mental health and physical fitness in the hopes to build an understanding of how to think about mental health as a daily workout regimen.

Mental Health Lifestyle

Physical fitness works best when you view it as a lifestyle. Mental health functions much in the same manner. When it comes to proper physical fitness, various aspects of life must change. Going to the gym is often not enough. Your food intake needs to be examined, sleep schedule, times to rest and recover. You can examine everything to maximize results and minimize barriers. Mental health is very similar to this concept, mental health is a lifestyle, not a hobby. Going to see a trainer to have highly productive workout sessions is going to do no good if in between sessions the calorie intake consists of fast food and soda. So, seeing a therapist once a week will not suffice if in between sessions there is no sense of structure.

Earlier I mentioned food intake and the impact unhealthy eating habits have on physical fitness. Mental health has something similar when it comes to intake. Unhealthy intake can be defined as environmental aspects that generate unwanted thoughts and emotions. One example is a person in your life who typically puts you down or watching the news frequently and becoming increasingly angry or fearful. Examples of healthy intake can be a supportive and loving person in life who is accepting or watching a comedian and forgetting how tough life is for a moment. Healthy intake generates good feelings and thoughts which increases self-worth and self-esteem, and both facilitate good mental health.

Mental Health Gains

With physical fitness, there is often a discussion around gains. The focus is on maximizing gains and making sure there are weekly gains. Mental health has a similar focus, call it gains, progress, change, or improvement it is all referring to the same thing. Getting one step closer to the end goal. In the world of physical fitness, going to the gym once a week is not the best way to have progress, so seeing a therapist once a week for an hour and doing nothing else in between sessions will not maximize your progress.

If the goal is to lose ten pounds of weight and the workout regimen is to lift weights once a week, it could take a long time to lose those ten pounds. Now if a physical trainer is enlisted and the workout regimen is to do a mix of cardio and lifts five days a week, losing those ten pounds is going to happen much sooner. Let me compare this concept to mental health. If the goal is to feel happier and smile more often in the day and the time frame to achieve this goal is three months, seeing a therapist to talk to once a week might not be enough to achieve this goal in three months; however, seeing a therapist and having a daily regimen focused on smiling more often makes the goal much more attainable. Without regular effort and weekly progress, motivation will drop and the likelihood of meeting the end goal diminishes in correlation.

Physical Trainers

Not all physical trainers are created equal or have the same background in education, training, or specialties. It is important to choose the right trainer based on any pre-existing conditions, desired goals, and your experience level. If you have physical limitations of some kind, it makes sense to try to find a trainer that has experience or education with your limitation. The same would apply to any medical conditions such as diabetes or anything else that impacts exercise. The concept also applies to desired goals, for example, athletes require special exercise based on the sport they play while the average person with no conditions or limitations could train in any direction.

Mental health professionals are the same as physical trainers in which not all are trained in everything. Some therapists specialize in trauma recovery and use techniques that differ from a therapist who specializes in anxiety. Understanding what the desired goal is will aid and inform the therapist as to which approach will be beneficial but also if referring to another professional is more logical. This all works towards having a custom-tailored regimen that works towards the desired end goal.

Different people need help in different areas, so a cookie-cutter approach does not always make sense. If a physical trainer creates a workout regimen centered around grip strength for rock climbing but the client wants to run a five-kilometer race, the workout regimen does not make much sense. It is important you have a mental health regimen that is focused on your desired goal. For example, if you struggle with anxiety and are seeking professional help, one regimen could be a breathing technique designed to combat anxious feelings. This quick and simple example works towards the desired end goal of managing anxiety.


Much like physical fitness, rest days are equally as important as workdays. Rest in the realm of physical fitness is to let your muscles recover and to keep energy levels up. The heart and the mind need rest to recover and to regain energy for the next workout session. Constantly working without rest will eventually lead to burnout and end up hurting progress. After resting, the body becomes stronger over time with proper recovery, which allows the body to become more efficient, stronger, and faster. Mental health is the same, at first everything is hard, uncomfortable, and feelings of exhaustion happen more frequently. With proper training and rest, there will be a comfortable amount of weekly progress until happiness and joy is achieved.

If you or someone you know needs help setting up an effective mental health routine, contact me HERE

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