Promoting Mental Health Through Bodybuilding and Exercise

Written by David Shrank for Empowerment Behavioral Therapeutic Services on . Posted in Health & Wellness

Men and women alike exercise to get stronger, faster, thinner, more muscular, and healthy overall. All of these are physical results, but the benefits of exercise can be mental, too. As a therapist, I use weight training as a tool for recovery from bullying. The act of lifting weights alone is an empowering experience. Exercise is also an effective way of reducing stress. Mental health professionals will often suggest engaging in physical activity as part of their clients’ regimens.


In many circles, bodybuilding has taken on negative associations. People associate bodybuilders with the term “meat head,” or they describe those who work out consistently in the gym as a “gym rat.” Meat heads and gym rats are criticized for being self-obsessed or having some type of physical complex. People also assume those who are they are lacking in intelligence. This ignores the fact that many calculations must be taken into account to understand one’s body, weight training, and nutrition in order to achieve the desired outcome and appearance.

The reality is that most people in the gym are focused on health-sculpting their physique. At the same time, as people become more physically fit, they feel better about themselves, boosting their self-esteem. There is a feeling of accomplishment.

Bodybuilding can be a tool to transform a victim of bullying into a mentally and physically stronger survivor. When a person experiences bullying comments or actions, it can result in lower their self-esteem. Many who have endured mental and emotional trauma find motivation, empowerment, and recovery while building muscle. There is a very strong correlation between bodybuilding and increased self-esteem.

In general, exercise promotes increased productivity in other areas of life as well. When stress is reduced and the mind is clear, one can think and function much more effectively. People also tend to have considerably more energy for their kids and other family members. Instead of exercise making a person tired, it often provides increased energy throughout the day. In contrast, people often become sluggish, lethargic, or lack energy when they stop working out for an extended period of time.

For those who have difficulty sleeping, exercise also helps the body regulate itself and increases the need for sleep, resulting in an increased ability to fall and stay asleep.

Do people need to work out every day to experience the positive effects? No; but working out two to four times per week greatly improves health in every way. When I stress to clients the importance of regular workouts, I also encourage rest days to let the body recover and prevent over-training. Each person should make it a priority to exercise regularly to promote and maintain good mental and physical health. As long as medical issues don’t prevent it, everyone should get involved in bodybuilding to increase the feeling of empowerment and motivation.

I am writing this as a clinical social worker, not a medical doctor. If you have a pre-existing condition or other symptoms, please refer to a medical doctor for any and all medical advice and guidance. If you have any questions about using bodybuilding to overcome the trauma of bullying, please do not hesitate to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at (240) 565-2558.

David Shrank, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW is the founder and CEO of Empowerment Behavioral Therapeutic Services.

By David Shrank for Empowerment Behavioral Therapeutic Services