Search for anything on my site

Depression and exercise

Considering antidepressants? Depression and exercise are inversely related. Try exercise first. Several studies have showed a conclusive link between depression and exercise, though we don’t quite know why.

In fact, exercise has been linked to better health, better brain function,  and has even been shown in a recent study published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health to alleviate post traumatic stress disorder symptoms!

Depression and exercise: The Mind Body Connection

Wow! I wonder why we don’t see more programs that target depression through exercise. As a therapist I spend hours in my office with clients who are depressed. I mostly work on their mind by assisting them in understanding how their behaviors and thoughts can be modified. I’ve recently realized how I’ve neglected the connection between the mind and body and am making an effort to integrate techniques that address this more into my practice.

Manage your Depression

I believe that depression is a medical condition that can be managed just like diabetes. If you suffer from depression, you have to take responsibility for doing what you can to manage it. I believe this is a lifelong commitment that you must make, and the inverse relationship between depression and exercise suggests that this is one great place to start.

Just what exactly does the research say about depression and exercise?

The research is not clear about the type of exercise, amount of exercise, or about a specific exercise program that is most beneficial.

No Drugs?

One of the most compelling studies done by Blumenthal of Duke University Medical Center randomly assigned women to take medicine or exercise as treatment for mild to moderate depression and found almost equal positive results! That’s right, that means that women on antidepressants, and women who exercised experienced equal relief from their symptoms.

Postpartum and Alzheimers too?

Exercise and depression are related for many different forms of depression. Exercise has been shown to reduce physical and mental fatigue in women with postpartum depression and shown clear benefits for depressed Alzheimer patients.

Here’s what we know about depression and exercise as summarized a 2005 article in USA Today:

  • Exercise is helpful with depression in the short and the long term. This means you will immediately feel better, and that you will feel better in the long run!
  • The worse off you are physically or psychologically the better the benefit of exercise. Meaning, the sicker you are the larger the beenfits
  • The more and longer you exercise the better the effects. However all kinds of exercise for all lengths of time are of some benefit.
  • Exercise paired with psychotherapy shows the best effects.

Although studies have suggested that aerobic exercise such as swimming, running, or walking are best, more mindful exercises such as yoga and meditative walking also tend to be effective.

The relationship between exercise and depression seems compelling enough to safely say you are not taking care of your depression, if you are not trying to increase your physical activity.

If you are depressed and want to learn to manage your depression, exercise is a necessary component to doing so.

Depression and Exercise Tips

1.Exercise doesn’t have to be a big production. You don’t have to join a gym or run twenty miles. Start out slow. Just put on a pair of sneakers and walk around the block. You will feel better immediately and are on your way to taking better care of yourself

2.Get some exercise tapes you think you will enjoy and do exercises in the comfort of your own living room. This way you don’t have to be embarrassed or exhausted by social contact or…

3.Join a club such where you can walk swim or play tennis with others

4.Partner with one friend to go walking

5. Walk with your dogs or children on a regular basis. They need the exercise health benefits as much as you!


Blumenthal et al" Exercise and Pharmacotherapy in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder". Psychosom Med.2007; 69: 587-596

Dritsa M, Da Costa D, Dupuis G, Lowensteyn I, Khalifé S." Effects of a home-based exercise intervention on fatigue in postpartum depressed women: results of a randomized controlled trial".Annals of Behavioral medicine. Volume 35, Number 2 / April, 2008

Williams, C. L. & Tappen, R. M. (2008). "Exercise training for depressed older adults with Alzheimer's disease". Aging & Mental Health, 12 (1), 72-80. Retrieved December 02, 2008, from

"Are workouts best remedy?(Depression)." USA Today (Magazine). Society for the Advancement of Education. 2005. Retrieved December 01, 2008 from HighBeam Research:

"Exercise steps up as depression buster.(BEHAVIOR)(Brief article)." Science News. Science Service, Inc. 2007. Retrieved December 01, 2008 from HighBeam Research:

" Mind, Mood & Memory”. Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 2007. Retrieved December 01, 2008 from HighBeam Research:

Thanks for visiting! Feel free to email me at

Follow me on pinterest to keep up with valuable mental health resources I am interested in

Follow me on twitter to keep up with valuable mental health resources I am interested in