Exercise As A Depression Treatment: All You Need To Know

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Exercise As A Depression Treatment: All You Need To Know

Exercise as a depression treatment: All you need to know

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When experiencing depression or anxiety, the thought of exercising often appears unappealing. However, once you find the motivation, exercise can have a significant impact.

Engaging in physical activity aids in the prevention and improvement of various health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. Studies focused on the relationship between depression, anxiety, and exercise indicate that the mental and physical advantages of being active can also enhance mood and alleviate anxiety.

What is depression?

Depression is a prevalent mental health disorder that has a profound impact on individuals across the globe. It can significantly disrupt one's overall well-being, making even the most mundane tasks appear insurmountable. There are various treatment options available for this mental health condition, however a treatment option that is often overlooked is exercise. In recent years, research has indicated that exercise can be an effective and natural way to alleviate symptoms of depression. 

Exercise and depression

It is an established fact that exercise has a positive impact on physical health, but its benefits extend far beyond that. Our brains release endorphins, commonly referred to as "feel-good" chemicals when we engage in any type of physical activity. These endorphins while interacting with receptors in the brain, reduce pain perception and trigger a positive mood. Physical exercise also promotes the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are all crucial for regulating mood and emotions.

It has been found that exercise increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays a vital role in brain health. When the body releases low levels of BDNF, it has been found people experience symptoms of depression. However, when we engage in regular exercise the body releases high BDNF levels, potentially alleviating symptoms of depression and improving overall cognitive function.

Benefits of exercise for depression

The relationship between depression, anxiety, and exercise remains somewhat unclear. However, engaging in physical activity, such as working out, can undoubtedly alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety and improve overall well-being. Furthermore, exercise may aid in preventing the recurrence of depression and anxiety after experiencing relief. Regular exercise has been found to potentially alleviate depression and anxiety in following ways:

Mood enhancement: The most immediate benefit of exercise is its ability to uplift mood. A single session of any kind of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, can reduce the symptoms of depression significantly.

Stress reduction: Stress which is a significant contributing factor to depression can be checked if we follow a regular exercise routine. Physical exercise acts as a natural stress reliever by reducing the production of stress hormones and promoting relaxation. Engaging in activities like yoga, tai chi, or meditation can be particularly effective in managing stress and calming the mind.

Increased energy levels: When you are in depression, it leaves you feeling lethargic and lacking energy. Exercise, on the other hand, boosts energy levels by increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles and tissues. As a result, individuals who incorporate exercise into their routine often experience improved vitality and a greater sense of well-being.

Improved sleep quality: People with symptoms of depression often experience sleep disturbances. However, if you involve yourself in regular exercise, it will likely regulate your sleep patterns, making it easier to fall asleep and improving the quality of rest.

Social interaction: Depression often leads to social withdrawal and isolation. If you are experiencing any depression symptoms, you should immediately start participating in group exercise classes, sports activities, or join fitness communities. This will provide you an opportunity for social interaction, reduce feelings of loneliness and promote a sense of belonging.

Starting exercise for treating depression

When you are experiencing depression it can be challenging to start an exercise routine however, taking small steps can make a significant difference in your journey. 

Start with realistic and manageable goals that align with your current fitness level and do not stress your body. Increase the intensity and duration of your workouts gradually as your stamina improves.

Include those exercises in your routine that you find enjoyable and engaging. These exercises could range from walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, or even gardening. The key is to find activities that bring you joy and make you look forward to exercising.

It is important to establish a consistent exercise routine by scheduling specific times for physical activity. Treat these workout sessions as non-negotiable appointments with yourself.

If you find it overwhelming to commit to a full workout, start with short bursts of activity throughout the day. You can take a brisk walk during your lunch break or doing a few sets of bodyweight exercises at home can be effective ways to incorporate exercise into your routine.

It is always important to seek help from a friend, family member, or a professional trainer to provide support and accountability. Having someone to exercise with or seek guidance from can increase motivation and adherence to your routine.


Exercise may not be a one size fits all solution for depression however, it can be a powerful complementary treatment option. Physical activity can be a valuable tool in managing depression as it helps to improve mental health and overall quality of life. Remember, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any exercise routine, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content, and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.