Workouts to match your mood

Match your exercise to your mood. Here are the best workouts to beat stress, a lack of motivation and everything in between.

Workouts to match your mood


How are you feeling today? Pumped and ready for action? Or a bit down in the dumps and unmotivated to put on your running shoes? Our mood constantly changes from day to day and this can have a huge impact on our mindset and how we feel. It’s well known that our mood plays a role in what we feel like eating but did you know that it can also impact your motivation to do physical activity?

“When you’re not in the right mood you may feel you want to ditch your exercise plans. On these days, it’s best to reflect on what you feel like doing and work with your mood, not against it, to come up with a solution” says exercise physiologist Neil Russell.

Here’s how to work with your mood to figure out what’s the best workout to do.


Feeling stressed?

You’re working day and night on a big project, or rushed off your feet at home and can’t think about exercise, let alone spare the time to do it.

Fit Match: Try something that gets you outdoors, says Dr Nathan Johnson, exercise physiologist at The University of Sydney. “At the end of a busy day, you might feel too exhausted to exercise but it’s often mental fatigue, not physical fatigue,” he says. “If you can get out and move, you may actually feel more invigorated.” Try going for a walk with your partner or your dog, or take your kids to the park for a run around. Another approach is to squeeze in a sweaty workout in a short space of time. “The more vigorous you are, the more you benefit,” says Dr Johnson. “If you’re a regular exerciser and have 15 minutes, do a five-minute warm-up, run as hard as you can for 10 minutes, then cool down.”


Seeing red?

Whether it’s an argument with your partner, or work is frustrating you, you’re angry and can’t concentrate on your usual workout.

Fit Match: Go for a high-intensity workout. “Doing a hard training session and working up a sweat can help alleviate any tension or stress you might be holding onto,” says Russell. Try circuit or interval training. Rather than walk for 30 minutes at a constant speed, do 30 seconds of high-intensity jogging as fast as you can and 90 seconds of low-intensity walking.” Anything you should avoid when you’re in a rage? Steer clear of boxing classes until you’ve calmed down – research from Iowa State University found that venting via a punching bag actually increases angry feelings.



It’s that golden feeling – you’re confident, on top of the world, full of positive energy and ready for action.

Fit Match: Now’s the perfect time to try something new – whether that’s squash, touch footy, rock climbing or anything that’s been on your fitness wish list, but you haven’t got around to trying yet. Alternatively, try pushing yourself a bit harder in your usual workout. “Embrace those times where you’re feeling great guns,” says Dr Johnson. But if you usually run for, say, 20 minutes, don’t go straight to 40 minutes – you need to build up gradually to avoid injury. “See if you can do your run a bit faster, or just add another minute or two,” he suggests.


Down in the dumps?

Life’s a bit of a drag at the moment, and you’re too upset to do anything active.

Fit Match: You may not feel like it, but being active is likely to lift your spirits. “Research indicates exercise can be an effective way to improve mild to moderate depression and other acute and chronic mental illnesses,” says Russell. “Some studies have found aerobic activities with a rhythmic element like swimming or walking are effective when you’re in this mood.” Dr Johnson says a yoga class is another good idea: “Yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety levels – the psychological and wellbeing benefits of it are well known.” If you can, go with a friend, too. “There’s strong evidence that people exercise more often and stick with it when there’s a social component, so join a club or work out with a group of friends,” he suggests.


Chilled out?

That peaceful, calm feeling is lovely – but it doesn’t always lend itself to a sweaty workout.

Fit Match: When you’re in a calm state, go with it and use that time to do some stretching, says Russell. Do a few minutes of walking or some general activity to warm up your muscles before stretching for half an hour. “Stretching is especially important for those who have a desk job or sedentary lifestyle, focus on any areas that feel tight. Some common ones are your hamstrings and hip flexors,” adds Russell.


No motivation?

You’ve had a plateau at weigh-in this week, and just can’t face that walk around the block for the fourth day in a row.

Fit Match: “The best way to avoid that ‘can’t be bothered’ feeling is to make physical activity a part of your daily life,” says Dr Johnson. That way, you don’t think about it as something you have to do, it just becomes habitual and something that you do naturally. “For example, walk the kids to school every day, take up gardening, walk to a cafe with friends. If it’s a lifestyle change, you’re more likely to stick to it,” he says. Look out for local dance classes, too – or just put on some tunes at home. “If you love music, use it to increase your workout motivation. Dancing is brilliant exercise that most people often don’t think about,” adds Dr Johnson.