The Link Between Exercise And Depression 

Exercise And Depression

In this article we will discuss what is the link between exercise and depression.


Exercise has been taught as a ‘good habit’ to follow, right from kindergarten to adulthood. Its benefits for the physical well-being of the body are well known. They include attributes like keeping a check on body weight, developing immunity, and ultimately helping to age slowly.

Physical activities positively impact mental health, as well. It has been found as an excellent means of managing stress, dealing with fatigue, enhancing alertness, and improving the overall cognitive functioning of the mind and body. These factors show the possibility of exercise being an effective natural treatment for depression.


Defined simply, it is a disorder in which life is overshadowed by constant sadness, loss of interest, and a detrimental change in the way of thinking. It includes combinations of social, psychological, and social stress. Long-term depression can end up altering the way the brain functions.

A depressed person will not think of exercise as an immediate treatment. It is the last thing on their minds, due to the overall tiredness and lethargy brought on by the disorder. But once motivated, it can begin to significantly improve the symptoms.

Also refer the article how depression can affect your sexual life

How does Exercise Help?

Depression as well as anxiety can be curbed with daily physical activities. Here are some of the reasons why exercise positively contributes to issues related to depression:

Release Feel-Good Chemicals:

Increased secretion of dopamine and other ‘rewarding’ chemicals by the brain enhances the sense of well-being and gives emotions a much-needed kick.

Helpful Distraction:

Exercise puts the brain in a kind of ‘autopilot’ mode. It requires the person’s complete attention and involvement. And since it is an activity where steps are repeated over and over again for getting the best results, it is not hard for the brain to decipher, thus giving it less stressful work as well as satisfaction.


Setting up small and manageable goals when exercising helps to build up a sense of surety and affirmation within the depressed individual. Attaining the completion of a task is an instant booster for self-esteem. Regular exercise will also take care of keeping up the body’s shape and appearance. Above all, each time you achieve a day-to-day exercise-related goal, your brain releases dopamine and this keeps depression at bay.

Social Interaction:

Depression often makes people withdraw from socializing. Exercise is a great way to start interactions again if the patient is willing. Working out with friends, or even meeting neighbors while jogging around the block can help uplift the mood.

Healthy Coping Mechanism:

Coping mechanisms like alcohol consumption, chain-smoking, abusing drugs, or binge-eating are all extremely negative ways to deal with depression. These might result in the symptoms worsening, along with degrading the body’s overall health. Exercise, on the other hand, is a much healthier alternative. 

Exercise or Work-out?

When presented with the word ‘exercise,’ people tend to associate it with structurally planned exercise solutions. It presents with an image of doing strength training in the gym or having intense jogging sessions.

However, exercise is just another term of ‘physical activity.’ In a basic sense, it aims for the movement of the body in some way. A wide range of pursuits, like walking, dancing, doing chores around the house, washing the car, etc., can all count as exercise as well. 

Yes, doing intensive work-outs, pursuing sports, or sweating it out at Zumba classes are just as good. Although any activity that gets the body out of slouching positions from the couch is almost as credible as them.

How to Get Motivated and Stay Motivated?

This is one of the toughest challenges to overcome when diagnosed with depression. The syndrome often saps away the willpower of the individual to do the littlest of tasks. 

Low enthusiasm, coupled with lethargy, make for exercise being overlooked as a treatment, even though nearly everyone is aware of its benefits. These pointers can help with starting it off on the right foot:

Single out Likes and Dislikes:

There are numerous variations of exercises to pick-and-choose from. While yoga and aerobics are for someone seeking out creativity, a person wanting to start small can pick walking their way to work, choose the stairs over the elevator, or deep cleaning the house daily.

It is crucial to opt for activities that are sure to keep you engaged and not be left mid-way. Doing what the mind enjoys and sticking with it is the best way to do so.

Set Reasonable Goals:

While fitness gurus do impress everyone with their strict regime, setting daily goals which extend to hours at a stretch, or targeting a particular weight goal is not the way to begin. Here, excessive motivation can be harmful if the individual does not achieve those goals. They would be left discouraged from taking up physical activities altogether.

Instead, setting goals after figuring out what the body’s physical exertion capabilities are, would prove to be a much better option. Starting small and slowly increasing the weightage of the targets would be a wise choice.

Not a Chore:

Giving a depressed person a responsibility that they do not like will not bear any fruit. Similarly, exercise is not a duty that has to be completed. Neither is it an activity that would brand anyone a ‘failure,’ if not lived up to its levels.

Exercise should be treated the same way therapy and medications are. They are only treatments that help the body feel better, not chores that need to be done mandatorily. For best results, consider making exercise a part of your lifestyle.

Obstructions are Normal:

It is unrealistic to have the optimism that any physical activity, however simple it maybe, would be completely achievable. At times, the brain simply doesn’t want to coordinate, or wants to give up half-way. 

An athletically inactive person will also face physical obstructions. Muscle pain, health relapses, complications with the antidepressants being consumed, etc. may be encountered. But they should not become the reason for excluding exercise from daily life. To be slow and steady with exercise is the motto to be followed.

Doctor’s advice:

It has been repeatedly said that exercising is just another form of therapy for the body. Hence, talking it out with a therapist is beneficial. They would help in integrating the recommended exercises for a particular diagnosis in a more efficient manner. 

If you consume prescribed antidepressants and are planning to perform intense physical activities, a doctor should be consulted. This could help eradicate several possible risks.


The link between depression and exercise is a positive one. The latter’s presence in daily life would guarantee smooth sailing of the pre-existing treatments being taken. And it is vital not to forget that the human body must not be stagnant all day long. 

Having patience while starting with exercising is crucial for patients struggling with depression. The results may be short-term in nature. But as days go by, its mental effects are sure to stay around for a much longer time.