Gym owner says it's time we exercised for other benefits like mood, stress and cognitive function

Many forms of exercise, such as group classes or team sports, provide opportunities for social interaction. Picture: Anupam Mahapatra/Unsplash

Many forms of exercise, such as group classes or team sports, provide opportunities for social interaction. Picture: Anupam Mahapatra/Unsplash

Published Oct 16, 2023


There is an increasing amount of evidence documenting the beneficial impact of physical activity on mental health, with studies examining the effects of both brief bouts of exercise and more extended periods of activity.

Research shows us that fitness plays a big part in achieving the six elements of mental well-being, especially in improving your relationship with yourself and others, independence, personal growth, and development, as well as having a purpose; a dedicated goal.

Engaging in regular exercise can have a positive influence on various aspects of mental well-being, including mood, stress levels, cognitive function and overall quality of life.

Schalk Hugo, Founding Owner and CEO of the global gym Ignite Fitness, shares the top reasons why staying active is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, starting today!

According to general results, exercise enhances mood and self-esteem while decreasing stress tendencies, a factor known to aggravate mental and physical diseases.

Studies show that people who exercise regularly have a better frame of mind, considering that 1 in 3 people in South Africa experience a mental health issue.

And only 1 in 10 people with a mental health issue have access to treatment, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety group.

Further research was published in the National Library of Medicine on the role of physical activity on mental health and well-being states.

It has been shown that exercise can improve attention, focus, memory, cognition, language fluency and decision-making for up to two hours.

Getting that endorphin-high

Boosting your mental health and well-being is easier than you might think! When you exercise, your body releases special chemicals called endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.

These chemicals are like natural mood boosters that make you feel happier and less anxious or depressed. Endorphins are especially famous for giving you a sense of euphoria and reducing pain.

Less stress

Physical activity can act as a natural stress reliever. It helps the body better manage and recover from stress by reducing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Not only that, but exercise can help you manage stress.

Regular exercise also strengthens your ability to handle stress in the future.

Social interaction

Many forms of exercise, such as group classes or team sports, provide opportunities for social interaction. Social connections are vital for mental health, as they can combat feelings of loneliness and provide emotional support.

“Members exercising in group environments are more likely to achieve their goals, build relationships with like-minded individuals, and exercise more often, resulting in them achieving their personal health, wellness, and fitness goals more readily.

“These classes are led by personal trainers/coaches that focus on safe, interval, strength, and conditioning workouts with the latest trends in class structure and equipment,” said Hugo.

Improved sleep

People who exercise regularly tend to have better sleep patterns. Quality sleep is essential for mental wellness, as it allows the brain to rest and recharge. Poor sleep can lead to mood disturbances, cognitive impairments, and increased stress.


Achieving fitness goals, whether they are related to weight loss, strength, or endurance, can boost self-esteem and self-confidence. This improved self-image can positively affect mental well-being and help individuals feel more in control of their lives.

Mind-body connection

Practices like yoga and mindfulness meditation, which are often incorporated into fitness routines, emphasise the mind-body connection. These activities can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, promoting emotional regulation and self-awareness.

“Your subconscious mind is most malleable in the evening and in the morning. This is the best time to rewire your belief system. Before bed or in the evening before meditation/yoga practice, recall five things you are grateful for throughout the day. These can be little or big things.

“The purpose is to attune your mind to look to things to be grateful for. Right when your eyes open (from sleep, meditation/yoga practice), affirm anything you are focusing on manifesting.’’

“Today's going to be a great day. Today is going to be full of miracles. Try this practice for 21 days, and watch your whole life change,” said Business and Mindset Coach, Harley Rose Harris.