Managing Depression Through Exercise

By: Nathan Milhoan

Physicians regularly include exercise as part of their course of action for managing depression. While an exercise program may not cure depression, it does encourage healthy coping strategies. Studies find that people who workout regularly receive a positive boost in how they feel physically and psychologically, which may help those with depression.

By exercising, your body will release endorphins. These endorphins act as analgesics that react with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain, and also as a sedative to relax your body. These endorphins are made in many parts of your body, including the brain and spinal cord. The endorphins work a lot like pain medicines by binding to the same neuron receptors, but when these receptors are activated, they do not lead to addiction or dependence as with pain medicines such as morphine.

Other benefits of exercise that relate to depression sufferers include increased energy levels, lowered blood pressure, and improved quality of sleep

Psychologically, exercise has proven to have many positive effects on people. After a person exercises, he or she tends to feel a sense of accomplishment, which, in turn, leads to an increase in self-esteem. Further psychological benefits of exercise for those with symptoms of depression include opportunities for positive interactions with others, a distraction from unpleasant thoughts, and stress reduction.

While depression can make it difficult to get motivated to take a shower, go to work, or even go grocery shopping. Learning how to set realistic goals allows a person to still be able to experience the benefits of exercise. Studies have found that adults who exercise at least 30 minutes per day, three to five days per week tend to experience significant improvements in their depression symptoms. To get yourself started, however, even smaller amounts of exercise can help in the short term. Begin with a shorter goal of 10-15 minutes each day. Do not make exercising become a burden that adds stress and anxiety to your life.

If you base your exercise program on exercises that you enjoy, you will increase your chances of being successful in reaching your goals. Studies have shown that any exercise appears to positively impact the symptoms of depression, so focus on what you like to do. Some examples of moderate to vigorous exercises are walking or jogging, swimming, riding a bike, dancing, doing housework, basketball, tennis or volleyball.

If your lifestyle is suited for working out around other people in a gym setting, look into your local facilities. Depending on your personal goals, local gyms offer a variety of classes including yoga, kickboxing, and “spinning” (stationary bikes).

If you are more likely to exercise in the comfort of your own home, then assess your goals and decide what type of workouts you will be doing. There are excellent video workout routines that people have found success in, such as Core Secrets for stability ball core training, and P90X as a great total body workout program utilizing a relatively new concept of muscle confusion to prevent muscles from hitting a plateau.

Remember that, whatever you decide, be sure to mix up what you do often to prevent boredom with your exercise.

To learn more about the effects of exercise on depression, please visit

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