What Are Mental Health Gyms?

Kristin Hall

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Rachel Sacks

Updated 11/15/2022

We all know going to the gym and lifting weights can make us stronger physically. But what if we want to strengthen our mental health, too? What if a mental health gym existed?

Well, what if we told you that they do?

Yes, mental health gyms exist. But what, exactly are they? What should you expect from a mental health gym? Are these new-ew types of gyms legit, or are they just another fitness gimmick?

… Yes, we’re talking about you, Shake Weight®.

Anyway, a mental health gym is what it sounds like — a place to go to exercise your mind.

Our mental health consists of our psychological, social and emotional health and well-being and how we make choices, connect with others and handle stress in everyday life.

While a relatively new concept, a mental health gym can offer support sessions, mindfulness classes and other techniques to help manage mental health.

Some take place in physical spaces, while others offer online sessions or prerecorded materials.

A gym for mental health might be run by therapy professionals, certified yoga instructors or mindfulness practitioners to work on things like stress and burnout.

Many people experience poor mental health like stress. The average stress level of U.S. adults was 5.6 on a scale of one to 10 in 2021, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical fitness. Certain mental health conditions — like depression — can increase the risk for many physical health problems.  

The benefits of exercise and physical activity are numerous for mental well-being and emotional health.

Physical activity can also help manage anxiety and depression symptoms by releasing mood-enhancing brain chemicals like endocannabinoids, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

While therapy and medication are the two most effective treatments for certain mental health conditions, a mental health gym might focus more on things like stress reduction techniques.

While stress is a normal response, too much stress can play a role in mental health and worsen symptoms of certain disorders.

Some symptoms of stress are similar to symptoms of anxiety, such as:

  • Excessive worrying

  • Tension

  • Body pain or headaches

  • Loss of sleep

  • High blood pressure

Mental health clubs might teach mindfulness techniques, meditation, journaling or movement as ways to reduce stress.

You can learn about more ways to reduce stress in our guide on self-care tips for women.

How do you know if going to a mental health gym would be worth it? Fortunately, there are upsides to mental health clubs.

Mental health gyms are a newer idea, but many of the benefits they offer are well-established in mental healthcare.

Things like making sure care is available to a wider umbrella of people, making sure that care is affordable to those people, making sure we’re having more conversations — and having those conversations more often — about mental health and more.

Increased Access to Care

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, currently, over 52 million people in the U.S. struggle with mental illnesses.

However, among those with mental health issues, less than half received treatment.

There are many reasons why people don’t receive treatment for mental health.

Significant barriers like cost or lack of insurance and the stigma of discussing mental health issues can keep people from receiving help.

A mental health gym can provide another resource for people to receive different types of treatment, such as mindfulness or stress management.

Mental health clubs could also provide more opportunities to talk to someone.

With an estimated 184 million people having memberships at health clubs in 2019, it’s not a stretch to conclude that many people may frequent gyms more often than they do a healthcare provider.

People may have more opportunities to talk with staff who specialize in mental health issues and coping techniques at a gym for mental health.

online mental health assessment

your mental health journey starts here

More Cost Effective

While prices vary among mental health professionals, how much therapy costs can get quite expensive — for some, a single session can cost hundreds of dollars.

The cost of medication can also vary with factors like insurance affecting the price someone may pay.

Some mental health gyms offer single or multiple classes for a much lower rate.

On average, the price of a mental health gym visit is less expensive than ongoing therapy.

Of course, prices will vary between locations and the cost can add up if you frequent a mental health gym regularly, but you get the point.

Traditional Methods of Mental Health Treatment

Traditional treatments for mental health conditions are psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both.

A review of 198 studies involving over 15,000 patients found that psychotherapy was effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

However, everyone responds to treatments differently and some may not see improvement in their mental health while on a typical antidepressant such as fluoxetine (Prozac®).

A 2012 review found that 30 percent of patients with treatment-resistant depression didn’t respond to any treatment.

Other treatment options like stress reduction, coping, breathing and relaxation techniques may be more effective for certain people. These techniques are often taught at a mental health gym.

Removes Mental Health Stigma

Another barrier to why more people may not seek out treatment is the stigmas surrounding mental health.

From being seen as weak by your peers to the fear of losing your job, mental health has many different negative associations.

Even a review of studies on stigma found that many people still have a negative view of those with mental illness even though they accept the medical nature of a mental health disorder.

These stigmas can have negative effects on people struggling with mental health including:

  • Reluctance to seek treatment

  • Lack of understanding

  • Social isolation

  • Fewer job or housing opportunities

  • Insurance that doesn’t fully cover mental health treatment

Gyms are often associated with strength and health, a contrast to the way people may view mental health issues.

A mental health gym focuses on helping people cope with and strengthen their mental health which could challenge stereotypes and negative associations.

psych meds online

psychiatrist-backed care, all from your couch

A mental health gym could be one option for mental healthcare to learn coping techniques and how to reduce stress from everyday life.

However, while an innovative concept, mental health gyms are not a substitute for therapy or depression and anxiety medication.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression (feeling down or hopeless) or anxiety (excessive worrying) for extended periods, talk to your healthcare provider.

You can also consult with a mental health professional online about your thoughts, feelings, symptoms and more to figure out the best mental health treatment plan for you.

14 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. About Mental Health. (n.d.). CDC. Retrieved from
  2. Friedman, M. (2021, February 3). The Dawn of the Mental Health Gym. Psychology Today. Retrieved from
  3. APA: U.S. adults report highest stress level since early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. (2021, February 2). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from
  4. Basso, J. C., & Suzuki, W. A. (2017). The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain plasticity (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2(2), 127–152. Retrieved from
  5. Managing Stress. (n.d.). NAMI. Retrieved from
  6. I'm So Stressed Out! Fact Sheet. (n.d.). NIMH. Retrieved from
  7. Emotional Stress: Warning Signs, Management, When to Get Help. (2020, December 29). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from
  8. NIMH » Mental Illness. (n.d.). NIMH. Retrieved from
  9. The Doctor is Out. (n.d.). NAMI. Retrieved from
  10. The 2020 IHRSA Global Report. (2020). IHRSA. Retrieved from
  11. Barth, J., Munder, T., Gerger, H., Nüesch, E., Trelle, S., Znoj, H., Jüni, P., & Cuijpers, P. (2013, May 28). Comparative Efficacy of Seven Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Patients with Depression: A Network Meta-Analysis. PLOS. Retrieved from
  12. Al-Harbi K. S. (2012). Treatment-resistant depression: therapeutic trends, challenges, and future directions. Patient preference and adherence, 6, 369–388. Retrieved from
  13. - Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness. (n.d.). American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved from
  14. The health crisis of mental health stigma. (2016, March 12). The Lancet, 387(10023), 1027. Retrieved from

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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