Fitness Articles

Bust Your Bad Mood with Exercise

Use Fitness, Not Food, to Change Your State of Mind

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Some days, I am just in a mood. I don’t know what you call it, maybe stressed, bored, lonely, angry, sad, anxious, or tired. I call it "getting into a funk." When it happens, I have allowed my circumstances to dictate my attitude and my thinking and then—bam! Before I know what hit me, I’m in a full-blown funk. While I like to exercise when a bad mood rises, others turn to unhealthy habits like emotional eating or smoking. When you're upset, stressed or otherwise not feeling like yourself, exercise—and the mood-enhancing endorphins it produces—can be the best thing for you. Don't you believe me?

The next time you feel that mood coming on, identify what you're feeling and why. Are you bored because your best friend is out of town? Are you feeling lonely since the kids have left the nest? Or maybe you are stressing over finances. Whatever it is, pinpoint it. Then use the specific ideas below to bust your bad mood with a feel-good exercise prescription.

Your Mood: Angry
Your blood is boiling! You want to take this anger out on someone before you explode!
Mood Busting Exercises: Kickboxing, boxing, shadowboxing, or martial arts.
Whether you follow a kickboxing video or take a group class, you'll release anger with every punch, kick and jab. Imagine the target of your anger as you do a set of 12 front kicks! Besides getting your anger out you’ll blast calories with these cardio workouts. Any form of martial arts, often overlooked as a form of exercise, will also work. Besides actually making contact with pads, targets, and shields (a major stress and anger releaser!), you’ll gain gaining confidence, discipline, and focus.

Your Mood: Bored
You're stuck in a rut and want to do something interesting, but you're not sure what.
Mood Busting Exercises: Spinning class, step aerobics, or a new fitness DVD
Beat boredom (without food) by taking a high-energy Spinning class at your local gym. Set to great tunes, you'll be surprised how quickly an hourlong class flies by. Step aerobics is another great workout when you're bored because it's always changing. You have to concentrate on the choreography—sort of like learning a simple dance that involves a step. You'll build skills and feel really accomplished when it's over! Lastly, head to the library or video rental store and pick up the first workout DVD that looks interesting to you. Do it at home or invite a friend over to try your newest exercise venture!

Your Mood: Lonely
When you feel lonely, throwing a pity party for one will only make it worse. Sometimes the best thing for you is to get out and socialize.
Mood Busting Exercises: Any group fitness class
Exercising with a group of people who are all following the same routine and all have similar goals can really make you feel like you're a part of something bigger than yourself. No matter what type of class you choose, there are plenty of reasons why group classes are so popular: They offer social support, a friendly environment and an opportunity to meet people who have similar interests.

Your Mood: Depressed
Depression is no joke. Millions of people suffer from depression that is debilitating and emotionally painful, but exercise is scientifically proven to help treat depression. While finding the motivation to take the first step is the hardest part, the right activity can help.
Mood Busting Exercises: Outdoor walking, biking, or running
There's something restorative about nature. Getting outside to breathe in fresh air and admire the scenery can make a world of difference in your perspective. Plus, regular exposure to sunlight can boost your mood and ward off seasonal depression, too. No matter what outdoor pursuit you enjoy (think outside of the box and try canoeing, climbing, or team sports, too), moving your body can help improve your outlook and symptoms.

Your Mood: Stressed
We're all busy, often taking on more responsibilities than we can handle. When life gets crazy and you want to throw in the towel, you can wind down without giving up on your obligations.
Mood Busting Exercises: Mind-body exercises like yoga, Pilates, or Tai chi
Mind-body exercises take focus, patience, and attention. Because of the complexities of maintaining the correct form and breathing, which connects the mind and body, it's almost impossible to think about your to-do list while you're in the middle of a good yoga or Pilates class, for example. The quiet, meditative atmosphere in these classes (and videos) allows you to tune in to the present moment—something that the overly stressed should do more often! If you're thinking that you're too busy or overwhelmed to try a class, then take advantage of short video workouts that are often broken up into 10- to 30- minute segments.


Have you ever finished a workout and thought to yourself, "I wish I hadn’t done that! I really just wasted my time." Probably not. Chances are you feel better physically and mentally. Regardless of your funk, exercise can be a useful tool to get you back to bust your bad mood and get back to your normal self. What are you waiting for?

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Member Comments

  • I have always noticed that exercise helps my moods -- easy way to help.
  • KELLY_R
    I think these are great suggestions, and perhaps can be helpful.

    I will testify, however, that exercise isn't THE answer to chronic stressors. Those really need to be addressed at an emotional level - spiritual, too, if that doesn't set your hairs on end.

    Combining healthy eating and exercise with good emotional support and recovery, however, is a powerful mix. It's not by any means a cure, but it certainly helps way more than isolating, being lethargic and eating unhealthy.
  • I'm lonely a lot. Group classes aren't enjoyable, because I worry that people are making fun of me. I have a gym membership but have no desire to exercise in public. Actually, I have no desire to exercise at all.
  • This is an extremely smart and useful article. I plan to use it every day. Good work.
  • A lot of times I need a DVD or workout with an instructor with a good sense of humor. Also, for me the music is essential - and I love variety in that regard.
  • I love the way this article breaks down the kind of activities that could address whatever your dealing with.
    Good stuff! Thank you!
  • Love this - all great ideas. I found myself so angry yesterday morning that I just didn't know what to do. Breaking something has never been a good option. So I put on my tennis shoes, got Daisy ready and out we went for the fastest walk around the block (it's a very large block) that we've ever taken. But, I felt so much better when we got home!
  • Good advice to remember. I had some stress issues this week and should have just walked it out.
  • Good ideas here, but the suggestion about imagining that you are hitting the object of your anger when practicing martial arts is bad advice. The Japanese words kara te mean empty hand, and the empty part refers to more than just a hand with nothing in it: the empty mind is what gives karate its power and speed. Any martial art exercise should be treated as a meditation, and the object of your attention should be the task you are doing: focus your mind on your body. This is what used to be called paying attention to what you're doing instead of daydreaming (i.e., imagining you're hitting something or someone). This is as important as the physical part of the exercise (if not more so). And it should work just fine at reducing stress or anger or whatever, because meditation tends to have that effect.
  • Awesome article!
  • Great article! I'm definitely going to come back to this time and time again for the suggestions and reminders!
  • Love this. One of the biggest things I'm learning is that 1) I used to use food to medicate a lot of stress, anxiety, boredom, frustration... and 2) running wipes out those negative emotions, leaving me so much better able to negotiate my day-to-day life (without the need for unhealthy coping tools).
  • Great article! It is helpful to see the suggested exercise broken down by what to do based on how a person is feeling. Love that!
  • Nice suggestions for different types of exercise for different moods

About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

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