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Depression and Exercise


Exercise routine helps to improve over-all mood and fitness and should take you roughly 30mins to complete. Exercise and depression research has demonstrated that exercise helps relieve depression quickly. Any form of regular exercise holds the promise of increased energy and renewed vitality.

A run around the park is often the last thing people feel like doing when they're depressed, but for many people, even gentle exercise seems to help. Again, the results from formal trials are mixed, but there's fairly good evidence that exercise is beneficial for mild to moderate depression (and it certainly won't do any harm).

Depression and Exercise effects:

Recent research shows the value of exercise in moderating depression. Blumenthal, studied the effects of exercise training on older patients with major depressive disorders. The conclusion from this study indicated that, although antidepressants may facilitate a more rapid initial therapeutic response than exercise, after 16 weeks of treatment; exercise was equally effective in reducing depression in patients suffering major depressive disorder.

Recent research in Queensland by Dan Dwyer also confirms the benefits of exercise in relation to Depression. He states " my tests have found that when we exercise and reach a higher level of fitness, our brains appear to build up resistance to serotonin, and so the body does not tire so easily". He goes on to say "our findings suggest that there could be strong benefit for people who suffer from depression to take up exercise as an adjunct therapy for the treatment of Depression."

Depression and Exercise benefits:

Exercise is becoming a more recognized form of therapy. Doug Burke, who has worked with Vietnam Veterans for many years, has developed a structured exercise program that is very successful in treating Veterans suffering depression and trauma reactions. The success of this program is demonstrated by the fact that it is in this years' Federal Budget, the Department of Veterans Affairs has extended the funding to deliver this program on a national basis over the next 4 years. Some of the benefits of exercise in depression are as follows:

  • People have reported that, when they exercise, can think more clearly, feel happy, feel better about themselves, lose weight, develop strength, and enjoy a sense of well-being.
  • Exercise increased positive mood
  • they sleep better
  • have less nervousness and anxiety,
  • Exercise decreased negative mood
  • Exercise improved vigor
  • Exercise is effective in reducing stress, anger, fatigue
  • Many evidence proved that exercise plays a vital role in uplifting depression
  • Exercise improved the motivation and self-esteem in the person
  • Many people even report that they look and feel younger when they exercise regularly.
  • Exercise may help in increasing the feelings of coherence
  • Exercise increased the feelings of social integration
  • An exercise and depression study in which participants walked daily for even weeks found that the decrease in depressive mood and the improvement in vigor continued after five months.
  • Another exercise and depression study which compared exercise alone, medication alone, and exercise plus medication found lasting improvements after six months in participants who had exercised without medication.
  • When the participants continued to exercise the on going improvement was even greater. This study concluded that medication may produce quicker relief but exercise yields more long term benefit.

I have heard of doctors who prescribe an exercise routine instead of, or in addition to, medications. For people who can't afford expensive medications, exercise may be one route to better health. Some have even referred to exercise as the cheapest and most available antidepressant.

Points to keep in mind while starting any exercise program:

  • Ask your doctor to recommend, based on her/his findings, an exercise program that would be practical, safe and healthy for you.
  • A warm bath after you exercise the first few times will help to relieve those aches and pains that come when you inadvertently over-exercise.
  • Try to maintain a regular schedule of exercise.
  • If you feel any pain or experience anything other than the normal sensation of muscle fatigue - stop exercise.
  • Always work out at your own pace; and skip exercise if you are ill, have virus or a raised temperature.
  • To overcome the physical inertia from depression, you may need to be assisted by a supportive friend or partner, or to participate in a structured program, as the incentive to exercise on a regular basis.
  • Both too much and too little exercise can make mood disorders worse.  In contrast, exercise that is tailored to each individual's abilities and needs almost always helps mood.  We base our exercise advice on the Goldilocks Principle.  Do the right amount, not too little and not too much. 

Depression and Exercise -The BottomLine:

It is widely acknowledged that if you can discipline yourself to do some form of exercise regularly, you will almost definitely feel better for it. Even a brisk walk once a day is a good start. Garry MacDonald, who is on the board of the National Depression Institute, says that this was one of the best things he did during the worst of his depression. Every morning, whether he felt like it or not, and he rarely felt like it, he would make himself get up and go for a brisk walk for half an hour. About 20 minutes into the walk he would start to feel much better than when he first started.

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