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Book Review: 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise

8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise

Reading 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise can help you get motivated, build self-esteem, and heal your mind and body.

I was recently given a copy of 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise by Christina Hibbert. I was immediately excited to see it’s full of reflection questions, writing prompts, and action items. I’m a real self-help book junkie. I love to learn and improve myself. And I’m always on the lookout for good resources for my clients.

8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise isn’t a weight loss book or a how-to exercise book. Dr. Hibbert explains, with research to back it up, why exercise is such an important piece of mental health care. Exercise is free, accessible, holds no stigma, has no long-term side-effects, and works beautifully in addition to other mental health treatments. And a great bonus:  exercise can be fun!

You’re, of course, already aware of the tremendous physical benefits of exercise and you’ve likely heard (or experienced) how exercise can decrease stress and anxiety and improve mood.  As a therapist, I’m a big proponent of exercise for its positive effects on mood. I frequently talk to my clients about the positive effect of exercise on the body and mind. But even when you know all the positives, you don’t always fully utilize exercise as a way to get or stay mentally well. This is why 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise is such a useful tool.

Build self-esteem.

One reason you don’t exercise may be that on some level you don’t feel you’re worth the effort. Low self-worth can be a big barrier to exercise. No one wants to head to the gym when they’re feeling fat, ugly, or shame-filled. Dr. Hibbert has a great model that she calls the Pyramid of Self-Worth.  It moves you through the layers of self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-love, and finally to self-worth. It’s such a helpful model and reflects the clinical work that I do in helping you all understand yourselves, embrace both your strengths and imperfections, and increase your self-love and self-worth.

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated.

Some days, I’m just not motivated to exercise and I hear from clients that they also struggle with motivation. I was so happy to see that key #4 is motivation.  8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise will help you understand the psychology of motivation, set attainable goals, and most importantly understand your personal reasons for incorporating exercise into your recovery activities.

Plan for the inevitable obstacles.

How many times have you said: “I don’t have time to exercise”? I certainly know how easy it is to use this excuse! Dr. Hibbert walks you through this and many other roadblocks (like fatigue, boredom, body image issues, fear of failure) to exercise with a step by step problem-solving approach that will help you change your negative thoughts and create a plan that works for you.


8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise is written in an easy, approachable style. You don’t need to an athlete or have huge exercise goals. It’s great for those of us who want to experience more of the benefits of exercise, but need a bit of help creating a plan and overcoming the mental blocks to doing so. And as I mentioned, the activities in the book are very helpful. In my opinion, reading about something is a great start, but lasting change is going to also take planning and action.


For more information:

Dr. Christina Hibbert, PsyD




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Disclosures: I received a free copy of 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise from the publisher W.W. Norton & Co. Opinions are my own.

Book Review: 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise

Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin is a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert practicing in San Jose, CA. She is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.  

To learn more, visit Sharon's website. And please sign-up for free access to her resource library HERE (worksheets, tips, meditations, and resources for healing codependency, perfectionism, anxiety and more).

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APA Reference
Martin, S. (2018). Book Review: 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jan 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.