What effects does it have?

What is it?

Training to improve fitness and mood, reduce body fat, emphasise parts of the body, or build muscle.

It's also known as Cardio.

More information

You may consider exercise to improve physical fitness but also to improve mental health and fitness. You may also be interested in changing body shape by developing muscle.

It is now widely recognised that there is good evidence that regular exercise has beneficial effects on mental health 1. (You can read more about this from the NHS).

The Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Wales and NI have recommended that adults (19-64 years old) should perform either:

  • 150 minutes of “moderate” intensity activity each week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more
  • 75 minutes of “vigorous” intensity activity spread across the week or combinations of moderate and vigorous intensity activity

One way to do this is brisk walking or cycling for 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week. For example, a 15 minute walk to work or education in the morning and a 15 minute walk back each weekday.

You can read more about the benefits of regular exercise and get advice on what you can do next on the NHS Choices website.

There is also specific information for people with disabilities on the NHS Choices website.

Accessing gendered activities

Many sport and fitness activities can be segregated based on gender, which can be intimidating to many people. However, the situation is improving!

Many swimming pools and gyms now have cubicle based changing rooms and showers which may be more comfortable for you. You may want to research your local fitness facilities to find out if there are any with these kinds of facilities.

Swimming can be particularly difficult for many people as it can involve very tight clothing that can make the shape of your chest or crotch visible. If you find your chest shape distresses you, most pools will be happy for you to wear a rash vest, which can help to hide your chest shape or conceal a binder. Many binders can be worn while swimming - check with your binder manufacturer to be sure. If your crotch causes you distress, you may be able to find “swim skirt” swimwear that hides your crotch shape, or wear loose “board shorts” style swimming trunks.

In some areas of the country there are organisations specifically for expanding access to sport and fitness for people regardless of their gender history. Some run regular sessions at swimming pools where transgender, nonbinary or gender variant people can attend as a group. These organisations are listed further down this page.

You may also want to consider other ways of getting physical exercise that may be less gendered, for example:

  • skateboarding
  • rock climbing
  • martial arts
  • circus skills
  • freerunning
  • rollerblading
  • watersports

Muscle building

You may also want to use exercise as part of a strategy to change your body shape by increasing muscle mass in certain areas of your body (shoulders, arms, chest, thighs, or buttocks). Doing this requires exercising specific muscle groups.

You will find that which sex hormones you have in your body will significantly affect your upper body strength and how easy it is for you to increase muscle mass. Testosterone therapy increases the ability to increase muscle mass, while reduction of testosterone can cause significant loss of strength.

Remember that you can have a considerable amount of muscle without it being clearly visible if you have high body fat. One way of making muscles more clearly defined is dieting.

Personal training

A personal trainer can help you to safely and effectively reach your goals for your body by providing support and recommending activities.

If you are based in London, there are some personal trainers specifically catering to transgender clients:

  • Pete Griggs offers a personal training service for transgender people
  • Becca Knapp is a personal trainer advertising queer and transgender friendly services

There is more information on finding a properly qualified and insured personal trainer on the National Register of Personal Trainers website.

UK organisations

There is also advice for sports and fitness clubs and venues about how to support diverse genders available on this website.


  1. 1 Stathopoulou, Georgia, Powers, Mark B, Berry, Angela C, Smits, Jasper AJ and Otto, Michael W (2006) “Exercise interventions for mental health: a quantitative and qualitative review.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13(2), pp. 179–193.

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Page last updated: July 2018