How Exercise Increases Confidence

This article was updated April 4, 2021.

To deal with stressful events, people often revert to patterns of behavior used earlier in development. Anna Freud called this defense mechanism, “Regression,” which suggests that people act out behaviors from the stage of psycho-sexual development in which they are fixated. According to Freud, an individual fixated at the “oral stage” might begin eating, smoking, or being verbally aggressive. Therefore, people who lack confidence, depressed, out of shape, overweight, and not taking care of their body might be doing so as a result of the oral stage of regression. In the video above we cover the various ways that exercise increases confidence.

Mirror Neurons

Have you ever heard a coach tell a runner to visualize the win? The reason this works is due to brain cells called mirror neurons. When we hear or see things, our mirror neurons are firing. When the athlete visualizes the win, the same part of the brain and the same group of muscles are being activated as if they were running in an actual race because of the mirror neurons firing. These neurons are also the reason the TV and film industry add laughing tracks, music, or sound effects to their tv shows and movies. This helps trigger your emotions and you believe what you just saw and heard was funnier than it actually was. You might be asking yourself what any of this has to do with exercise. Well, when you go to the gym or work out with other people, these same mirror neurons are firing. The proof of this is when you hear people say they are more motivated to go to the gym than working out at home. Just like the TV and film industry extorting your feelings using laughing tracks, music, or sound effects, you can also extort the mirror neurons to your benefit while exercising and use them to build your confidence.

Psychological Effect:

During exercise, your body makes chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins interact with receptors in your brain and reduce the perception of pain. It usually gives a similar effect as pain medications (e.g. morphine) since endorphins bind to the same receptors. This is often described as a feeling of “euphoria,” aka “runner’s high.”

Strength training, exercising, and eating healthy are the core foundations to be confident. When you are in shape due to the runner’s high you will find yourself more energized, focused, and motivated.

Reduces Stress

Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormone (e.g. adrenaline and cortisol). Endorphins also function as natural painkillers and mood elevators.

Boost self-esteem

There are many mechanisms by which exercise increases our evaluation of our self.

  • Short-term: exercise puts our mind in a more positive state and enhances our mood.
  • Long-term: exercise makes us feel good about our physical self
  • Physical change: When we lose weight or start to build muscle we develop a sense of accomplishment that boosts our confidence.

Improves sleep

Researchers don’t completely understand how physical activity improves sleep, however moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of the slow-wave sleep you get. Slow-wave is also known as deep sleep. Your brain and body rejuvenates when you are in deep sleep.

Exercising increases the core body temperature. After 30 to 90 minutes of stopping exercise, your core body temperature starts to fall. The decline in core body temperature helps facilitate sleepiness.

Since endorphins are also released during exercise, it is recommended to stop exercising at least 2-3 hours prior to sleep. This gives the body time to get rid of the endorphins.

Health benefits:

  • Strengthens your heart
  • Increases energy
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves muscle tone and strength
  • Strengthens and build bones
  • Reduces body fat
  • Makes you look fit and healthy
  • Increases “good” HDL cholesterol
  • Help controls blood sugar by improving how your body uses insulin

Exercise Routines:

There are many types of exercises a person can do.

  • Flexibility/Stretching Exercise: Some researchers believe that stretching before exercise can be detrimental because your body feels looser and is more susceptible to injury, however other researchers believe stretching increases range of motion which can reduce the chance of injury while working out. It also helps improve blood circulation.Examples include:
    • Back stretch
    • Arm stretch
    • Shoulder stretch
    • Inner thigh stretch
    • Ankle stretch
    • Leg stretch
  • Endurance Exercise: often referred to as aerobic since they increase your heart rate and breathing. They improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Examples include:
    • Walking/jogging
    • Biking
    • Swimming
    • Climbing stairs
    • Playing basketball or tennis
  • Strength Exercise: Strengthen your muscles and make you stronger. When doing exercises which build muscles, you are damaging the muscle fibers and your body has to repair them. Since your body is repairing the muscles, you continue to burn calories for several hours to even days after doing the exercise. Examples include:
    • Lifting weights
    • Arm curls
    • Push-ups
    • Using resistance bands
  • Balance Exercise: helps improves mind and body focus. It also improves your stability and helps prevent falls. Examples include:
    • Tai Chi
    • Standing on one foot
    • Heel-to-toe walk
    • Standing up from a seated position

If you are above the age of 50, have medical conditions (e.g. diabetes and heart disease), or haven’t exercised for some time, you should speak to your healthcare provider prior to starting a new exercise routine.


In the short term, exercise can help enhance your mood and influence your mind towards adopting more positive thoughts. In the longer term, exercise improves your image about yourself, makes you feel stronger, and gives you a sense of accomplishment. All of which further helps to increases your mental health and confidence because you feel good about yourself and abilities.

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