How Exercise Helps with Depression
Exercise helps depression. Unfortunately, when we are dealing with depression, exercise can feel like the last thing we want to do. While we understand there are benefits of exercise such as it helps to reduce the risk for lifestyle-related diseases, counteracts the daily effects of stress, and shapes our bodies by building muscle, we often forget that it also helps alleviate depression. Needing to get motivated to exercise again, I’ve spent time thinking about how exercise helps with depression.
3 Ways Exercise Helps with Depression
- Exercise releases endorphins.
Oh, how I love this word. Combining the shortened forms of endogenous (endo-) and morphine (-orphin), the word endorphin means “a morphine-like substance originating from within the body.”1
These brain chemicals, released during exercise, produce feelings of wellbeing, happiness, and euphoria. During my treadmill time, I often come up with exciting ideas, great plans, and thought-provoking insights. Immediately after I lift weights, I am often filled with a rush of happiness. At the end of my yoga classes, I’m overcome with a feeling of bliss. Like most people, I welcome these exercise-induced endorphin effects. And as a 40-year-old who has struggled with depression for over 25 years, I crave those happy moments. These moments are when my mind is focused, I’m filled with energy, and I’m free. The release of these feel-good chemicals is the main way that exercise helps with my depression.
- Exercise gives structure to our days.
When I am severely depressed, I often feel like staying in bed any chance I get. While staying in bed feels comforting, it actually gives me too much time to think. My unstructured thoughts will often spiral downward, and hours later, I will often end up feeling worse. However, when I’m engaged in an exercise routine and make working out a commitment, I’m out of the bed attending my classes. I’m doing something productive for myself which lifts my mood.
- Exercise distracts from depressed thoughts.
Distraction has proven to be a great tool for me to cope with my depression. Using exercise to distract me from my depressive thoughts gives me one of the best returns on my investment. During the workout, my thoughts are focused on the task at hand and after the workout, I’m already planning which class I’ll take next. And when I plan for a long-term exercise goal, such as running a race, I find that a lot of my mental energy will go into planning my workouts which leaves less time to dwell on my depressive thoughts.
After putting thought into how exercise helps with my depression, I’m inspired to get back into exercising consistently yet again. I hope you, too, will remember that an instant pick-me-up is only movements away.
Be sure to check out the next post in my exercise and depression series titled, "How to Exercise to Treat Depression the Right Way."
- Goldstein A, Lowery PJ, Life Sciences "Effect of the opiate antagonist naloxone on body temperature in rats" Accessed March 14, 2018.
Sedas, M. (2018, March 15). How Exercise Helps with Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2018/03/how-exercise-helps-alleviate-depression
Author: Michelle Sedas
These are great tips! I just signed up for new insurance through Insurance Line One and now I have great coverage for an affordable price. One of the greatest things that has helped my depression is exercise!
I think exercise and mindfulness during exercise helps reduce depression and anxiety tremendously. Must be consistent though such as 4 to 6 days per week, or depressions slips in very hard making exercise almost impossible. My main activities are jogging, walking, and hiking. Do need to get back into the weights. Work helps, but too much work and the stressors can make work counter productive too. Hopefully everyone with anxiety and depression are using exercise as part of their therapy program.
Thank you, John. I agree with you. Exercise is so important. Jogging, walking, hiking, and weights are all excellent forms of exercise for depression. Thanks for your comment.