How to Exercise to Help Treat Depression
Choosing exercise to help treat depression is a great idea. Not only does it release feel-good endorphins, it allows for social interaction as well as gives structure to our days. In this post, I share how to exercise to help treat depression as well as three things to consider when you exercise to help treat depression.
Choose the Right Exercise to Help Depression Treatment
You must consider the amount, duration and intensity of exercise to help treat depression the right way. We need to be consistent in order to reap the possible antidepressant benefits of exercise. Research tells us that doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day, for three to five days a week, can significantly improve depression symptoms.1 A Duke University research study found that “although antidepressants may help with a quicker initial therapeutic response than exercise, after 16 weeks of treatment exercise was equally effective in reducing depression among patients with major depressive disorder.”2
A study by The Cooper Institute has shown that intensity or difficulty of exercise is a key factor in improving mild to moderate depression.3 However, other findings show that for patients with a low level of fitness, moderate-intensity exercise (60%–80% maximum heart rate) is often more enjoyable than more intense activities. Also, people are roughly half as likely to drop out of a moderate-intensity exercise program compared to a vigorous-intensity exercise program.4
While a higher level of intensity might be better to help treat depression, if we burn out or quit the program altogether because it’s too intense, then we’ll be back to square one.
3 Things to Consider When You Exercise to Help Treat Depression
- Schedule your workouts ahead of time. If you wait until you feel like exercising to exercise, especially if you’re depressed, it most likely will never happen. Remember that motivation often comes after action. So, schedule your workouts into your calendar ahead of time rather than waiting until you feel inspired to exercise.
- Meet yourself where you are. If you’re just starting out, or just getting back into exercising, don’t demand too much of yourself. If an hour or 30 minutes of exercise seems too difficult, take comfort in the fact that even 10 to 15 minutes of exercise can produce a positive effect.
- Do something you enjoy. Why choose a form of exercise that you find boring or too difficult? There are so many different ways to exercise. You can run, bike, or hike outdoors. There’s swimming, yoga, and dance classes. Even a 20-minute walk with a friend might be beneficial. When you choose an exercise that you enjoy, it will seem like fun and you’ll be encouraged to work out.
Please check out my video below on exercising with a purpose to help treat depression. Also, be sure to read How Exercise Helps with Depression, my first post in my series on depression and exercise.
- Mayo Clinic, Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Accessed March 27, 2018.
- Blumenthal, JA, Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression. NCBI. October 25, 1999.
- The Cooper Institute, Depression Outcomes Study of Exercise. Accessed March 27, 2018.
- Craft, Lynette, The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. NCBI. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Sedas, M. (2018, March 29). How to Exercise to Help Treat Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2018/03/how-to-exercise-to-help-treat-depression
Author: Michelle Sedas
Thank you for your comment. Exercising when I'm depressed can be a struggle for me as well. I hope the warmer days will allow you to exercise outside. I think that's a great plan. Thank you!
This is a great comment. Thank you for taking the time to post. "Exercise is the most simplest and primitive form to deal with anxiety, depression, and motivation." That's awesome! Thank you!