What happens when Exercise is combined with Psychotherapy?

In this blog, we aim to answer the burning question of, “What happens when Exercise is combined with Psychotherapy?”, and also delve into the benefits of exercising and psychotherapy on mind and body. 

What happens when Exercise is combined with Psychotherapy?

Exercise helps regulate bodily functions and is also beneficial in increasing life span. Some researches and studies claim that combining exercise with psychotherapy engendered positive outcomes. 

What is Psychotherapy and why do we need it?

Psychotherapy is a form of therapy used in counseling for treatments of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders or issues. It is also known as talk therapy because therapists engage in conversations that are designed to generate insight and induce productive behavior.

Approaches in Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is an umbrella term used to define all the therapies collectively. There are different approaches involved in psychotherapy and according to the approach, many therapies have been formulated by psychologists. 

The Approaches are


The psychodynamic approach was developed by Sigmund Freud often hailed as the father of modern psychology

This approach delves into the unconscious mind as it is believed that our unconscious mind and suppressed thoughts can have an impact on our feelings and behaviors.


B.F. Skinner is considered the pioneer of the Behavior Approach of Psychotherapy with the likes of Ivan Pavlov and E.L. Thorndike

This school of psychology insists on the impact that learning has on behaviors whether they are normal or abnormal behaviors.


Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow is,a few of the notable names of the humanistic school of psychology.

The humanistic approach believes that all humans are inherently good. This school of psychology believes that all humans are capable of making rational choices to develop their potential to the maximum. It also believes in unconditional positive regard. 


Aaron T. Beck notably known as the father of Cognitive Therapy contributed the majority to the cognitive approach of Psychotherapy.

According to the cognitive school of Psychotherapy, people’s thought processes play a major role in influencing their behaviors, feelings, and emotions. So by altering unproductive and dysfunctional thoughts our thoughts, feelings and emotions could be influenced positively. 

Holistic/ Integrated

When the different approaches are combined to form a personalized therapy treatment to cater to the client’s needs it is called a Holistic or Integrated Approach.

What Is Exercise and what are its Benefits?

Exercise can be defined as engaging in any kind of physical activity that enhances our health. There is no shortage of benefits of exercise. But a few of them are:

Increases metabolism.

A healthy metabolism regulates our body weight and digestion. Exercise helps our body in regulating our metabolism.

Increases life span

Various studies and researchers have supported this claim that regular exercising helps in having a long life.

Protects from Fatal diseases like Cardiac Arrest and Stroke

Cardiac arrest and stroke are some of the leading causes of death in the world and exercise help in decreasing the risks of these fatal diseases.

Improves functioning and mood

A healthy body makes the mind healthy too. Regular and proper exercising has been shown to have long-term effects on moods and the mind.

Diabetes and blood pressure

Exercise plays a major role in controlling incurable diseases like diabetes and also keeps our blood pressure under control. 

Strengthen Muscles and Bones

Exercising makes us physically stronger and also tougher.

Is Yoga a part of exercise too?

Yes, yoga is also a type of exercise. It is one of the oldest form exercises that developed to improve breathing, flexibility, and strength in our body. It is a set of complex postures, motions, and breathing techniques designed to achieve maximum health benefits.

How does Exercise help in Psychotherapy? 

Exercise plays an important role in regulating bodily functions. It can boost our energy levels and help us.

Exercising helps in increasing blood circulation to the brain. It is a well-known fact that the brain (or any organ in our body) requires a healthy circulation of blood to function well. Exercising helps in regulating the blood circulation thus eradicating or helping with a lot of issues arising due to poor circulation of the blood. 

Studies have found that aerobic exercises that induce blood circulation help with the alleviation of depression. 

It is observed that depression or any other mental health issues such as schizophrenia causes people to live a sedentary lifestyle. This can give rise to serious health issues such as obesity, diabetes, increased cholesterol levels, joint aches, etc. With the help of regular exercising, a lot of these issues can be controlled and reduced. 

It also provides a distraction to the people from their issues. People can invest or direct their focus or attention to exercise thus reducing their mental capacity to invest time in thinking about their mental health issues. As sometimes overthinking can spike anxiety levels and can also lead to anxiety disorders. 

Also, it helps in positive social interaction. Exercising has been proved to have good effects on increasing self-esteem and boosting confidence. Hence it invariably helps with social interaction as well.

Also, most of the time exercise is done in an environment that is in the open (like parks, jogging tracks) or a place people exercise collectively  (gyms, training centers). This makes it easier to come in contact with different people and to increase our interpersonal skills. Also, it has been proved that healthy social interaction helps in boosting mental health. 

Researchers carried out various studies to examine the effects of exercise on managing mental health disorders. 

In one of these studies, it was tested to see whether blending exercise and psychotherapy can have an impact on the treatment of depression. In this study, a group of people suffering from depression was administered the treatment plan that consisted of the combination of exercise and psychotherapy and the control group was administered just psychotherapy. 

Through the study it was found exercise does play a significant role in managing clinical depression. Similar studies had been carried to test its effects on anxiety and other mental health issues. These studies too proved the effectiveness and reliability of exercise in alleviating stress levels and anxiety. 

Exercise has also proved to be very effective in controlling substance abuse. People find it very hard to fight addiction and sometimes psychotherapy alone is not effective. In such cases combining exercise, psychotherapy has helped a lot.

Mood enhancer.

It also serves as a mood enhancer and energy booster. Major depressive disorders, Clinical depression, Schizophrenia are some of the disorders wherein people need mood upliftment. They often feel hopeless and give up on enjoying life. Exercise can help them gain back their energy and positive mood.

The types of exercise that can be combined with Psychotherapy


Anaerobic exercise includes intense activities but in short bursts. These exercises are carried out by utilizing energy conserved within muscles. It is important to note that these exercises rely on the energy generated from oxygen intake.

The exercises that come under anaerobic exercises are:


Internal training




Climbing etc., 


Though aerobic exercises are of lower intensity as compared to anaerobic exercises they can be maintained for a longer duration.

The list of exercises are





Dancing Etc

These were just some of the few exercises mentioned from the extensive list which includes yoga, Martial arts boxing as well. 

How do Psychotherapists incorporate exercise in their treatment plans?

The incorporation of exercise in the treatment plan is highly personalized and tailored according to the needs of the client. Some clients might not be able to sustain high-intensity training due to age-related issues or health complications. In such scenarios, it is the therapist’s responsibility to come up with solutions and exercise plans that suit the client’s needs as well as capabilities.

Therefore the exercise doesn’t need to be of high intensity or only physically fit people can opt for a treatment plan that combines exercise with psychotherapy. Low-intensity workouts also are just as effective if planned meticulously. 

Thus there are endless benefits combining exercise with psychotherapy and more and more psychotherapists are opting to choose this route.


In this blog, we answered the question of, what happens when we combine exercise with psychotherapy?”, and explored the unique attributes of both exercise and psychotherapy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do physical fitness and mental health work together?

Yes, physical fitness and mental health work very well together. Improved physical fitness has a positive impact on our

self-esteem and this can help us feel more energized and happier. It also works in reducing stress and anxiety thus preventing the development of issues arising because of these elements. 

Is exercise a psychotherapist?

Exercise is a very effective additional treatment method when combined with psychotherapy. It helps in reducing anxiety levels, stress, and even something as severe as depression. Therefore, an increasing number of psychotherapists are including exercise in psychotherapy.

Do therapists recommend exercise?

Yes, therapists have noticed the positive effects of exercise on psychotherapy and encourage the clients to focus on their physical fitness along with their mental health. As exercise has proved to improve problems such as depression, insomnia,  weight gain, anxiety, stress, etc., therapists are keen to include exercise in their treatment plans.

What hormones are released during exercise?

Exercising helps in the release of endorphins that generates a positive feeling in us. Endorphins are also known to interact with the receptors in our brain that reduce our perception of pain. 

Are there psychological benefits of exercise?

There are many psychological benefits of exercise. Following is the list of psychological benefits of exercise on our mental health. 

Reduction of stress

Helps with insomnia.

Improves self-esteem

Builds energy

Helps with the treatments of Depression

Controls Anxiety

Helps to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships. 

It also generates positive emotions and feelings in our body which leads to productive behaviors. Thus, exercise has a very positive impact on our mental health. 

What exercise is best for mental health?

Exercise in general is a very effective component in maintaining good mental health. Following is the list of a few exercises that have been proved to be effective in improving mental health. 


Even though walking might seem like a very simple option for exercise, its health benefits are numerous. Also, it’s very low maintenance and is not as physically strenuous as its other counterparts. 


One of the ancient forms of exercise Yoga is the most sought-after exercise when it comes to improving mental health. Yoga is based on mindfulness thus making it the best option of exercise for mental health. 


Running just like walking is very low maintenance and can be done by almost everyone. Though its intensity is higher than walking this helps in the release of endorphins which ultimately make the person feel more energized and happier. 

Resistance Training.

This form of exercise involves pushing or pulling against a force. This force could be anything such as weights, our body weight, or weight machines. It is a high-intensity workout.


Different approaches to psychotherapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/approaches

The exercise effect. (n.d.). https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise

The therapist’s guide to exercise and mental health. (2020, June 16). Psychology Tools. https://www.psychologytools.com/articles/the-therapists-guide-to-exercise-and-mental-health/

Using exercise in mental health treatment. (2016, April 18). Therapist Aid. https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-guide/exercise-and-mental-health-treatments

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