The Connection Between Fitness, Nutrition, & Mental Health

Cristina Chan, F45 Recovery Athlete, CES, CPT
Ashleigh Kidd, F45 Challenge Dietitian, RD, LDN
November 2023

Welcome to Week 6 Challengers! Congratulations, you’re almost to the finish line! As you continue to gain insights into your recovery & performance, let’s take a closer look at the impacts fitness and nutrition has on your mental health. 

The positive impact fitness has on mental health

Self care goes beyond face masks and spa days. In the era of mental health struggles, lifestyle modifications like adding exercise or keeping an exercise routine can improve overall health and quality of life. You’ve probably heard that exercise supplies the body with its own natural endorphins but it also improves mental health by potentially reducing anxiety & depression while improving mood stability, self-esteem and cognitive function. These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and on the physiologic reactivity to stress. This physiologic influence is mediated by several regions of the brain, including the limbic system, which controls motivation and mood; the amygdala, which generates fear in response to stress; and the hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.

What does that mean in real life terms? For example, meditative movement like stretching and yoga has been shown to alleviate depressive symptoms. This is a type of movement in which you pay close attention to your bodily sensations, position in space, and gut feelings (such as subtle changes in heart rate or breathing) as you move. Changing your posture, breathing, and rhythm can all change your brain, thereby reducing stress, depression, and anxiety, and leading to a feeling of well-being. When creating a habit around these types of movements, you can self-soothe and train the body, like any other muscle, to develop a stronger connection.

Exercise can be a simple go-to remedy when you are too exhausted to use thought control strategies such as focusing on the positive, or looking at the situation from another angle. Movement can come to the rescue. Going on a meditative walk outside by yourself, or getting a sweat session with a friend, you may gain access to a back door to the mental changes that you desire without having to “psych yourself” into feeling better.

While exercise & certain aspects of fitness may improve mental health, it’s most important to consult with your medical provider if you are struggling with your mental health.

The impacts of nutrition on mental health

Mental health activities to feel better in the gym:

Exercises that are personally helpful in improving my mental health:

Utilizing Whoop to track mental health:

Leverage Stress Monitor within the WHOOP app to better understand how the body and mind are connected, and identify which situations trigger a physiological response. Stress Monitor measures your heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) in realtime and relay a stress score between 0-3 throughout the day. Learn more here.

Want to boost your immunity & HRV? Check out this article from Whoop on how to activate and improve Vagus Nerve function.

Learn more about tracking with WHOOP here and if you haven’t picked up a WHOOP band yet visit