Does Working Out Really Help Depression?

If you’re struggling with depression, you might be wondering if working out can really help. The answer is yes! Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression, and it can also help to prevent relapses.

Overview of Depression

Depression is a serious mental health condition that can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include persistent sadness, low self-esteem, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in activities and fatigue. These symptoms can severely impact a person’s ability to enjoy life, so it is important to take steps to manage depression. Working out has been suggested to be one of these steps, but does it really help? Let’s take a closer look.

Common symptoms

Depression is a common yet serious mental health disorder. It can cause a range of physical, psychological, and emotional problems. Symptoms may vary from person to person, but the most common ones include a persistent low mood and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Additional signs and symptoms may include sleeping too much or too little, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, changes in appetite or weight, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and thoughts of death or suicide.

If depression goes untreated over time it can cause serious damage to an individual’s work life and relationships. It can also increase their risk for developing physical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. A diagnosis of depression should be made by a qualified healthcare professional after completing a thorough evaluation. Treatment typically involves medication along with talk therapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychotherapy). In some cases, exercise has been found to help alleviate symptoms as well.

Causes of depression

Depression is a serious mental health disorder caused by a variety of factors, including environmental, biological and psychological. Depression may cause numerous symptoms such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide. It can also result in physical issues such as insomnia, fatigue and lack of energy.

Environmental factors are those experiences and problems which occur in the world outside. Stressful life events such as unemployment, loneliness or death of a loved one can contribute to depression. Biological causes include brain chemistry imbalance due to genetics or due to a medical condition like thyroid disease. Psychological causes involve unresolved personal issues from the past that affect present emotions and behavior..

Research has demonstrated that specific psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be very effective in treating depression by helping people learn how to identify their thought patterns, recognize negative thinking and replace them with more positive ones instead. In addition, lifestyle modifications like exercise on a regular basis may be helpful in reducing depressive symptoms by providing an outlet for stress reduction and improved physical health resulting from increased endorphins released during physical activity.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercising can be a great way to boost your mood and energy levels, even if you’re not particularly active. Exercise helps release endorphins, which can reduce stress and improve your overall mental state. Making exercise part of your daily routine can also help you feel more productive and energized. In addition, physical activity can help you build healthy habits, improve your self-confidence, and have a positive effect on your emotional wellbeing. Let’s take a look at some of the other benefits of exercise.

Improved mood

With regular physical exercise, your levels of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine — all hormones which play a role in mood regulation — increase. This can have a positive effect on your overall mood, allowing you to more easily cope with difficult situations and reducing stress levels. Operating at higher mental and physical energy levels can also boost self-esteem and give you more confidence in yourself. Additionally, exercise encourages social interaction, another important element for maintaining good mental health.

Exercise also encourages better sleep — an important factor in keeping depression at bay — improving the quality of sleep by providing both deeper restorative sleep and non-REM sleep, which refreshes the body both mentally and physically. Other health benefits like improving glucose regulation may help reduce the likelihood of developing depression, especially in individuals with higher risk factors such as drug or alcohol abuse or family history of depressive illness. Overall, exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression while promoting improved focus, increasing energy levels and boosting motivation that ultimately work together to improve mental wellness overall.

Increased energy levels

Regular aerobic exercise has been proven to increase energy levels in both the short and long term. Exercise gives your body an immediate boost by increasing the amount of oxygen being circulated around your body and your heart rate. This increased release of energy gives a kick-start to your day and can last hours. Over time, as you continue to exercise regularly, your level of energy begins to build up, allowing you to do daily tasks more efficiently and with more energy for longer periods of time.

The increased energy levels that come from regular exercise also help to alleviate feelings of depression and reduce stress by counteracting mental exhaustion from stressful activities or life situations. When you are feeling physically tired, it becomes harder to focus on positive thoughts or engage in enjoyable activities. Exercise helps increase physical endurance so you are less affected by harsh realities that can be emotionally draining. Additionally, regular physical activity encourages the release of endorphins, hormones associated with improved moods which keep depressed feelings at bay for longer periods after exercising than just performing activities sitting down or lying down would do.

Improved concentration

Regular exercise is associated with improvements in concentration, focus, and the ability to pay attention for long periods of time. Exercise has been shown to improve a person’s ability to remember information and recall it when needed, as well as their problem-solving skills. The endorphins released during exercise also help stabilize mood, reduce stress, and provide a better night’s sleep. When combined with other strategies, such as meditation and mindfulness techniques that focus on being present in the moment, exercise can be especially beneficial for those struggling with concentration. Some forms of exercise are more effective than others in improving concentration; studies have found that aerobic exercise (e.g., jogging or running) may be more beneficial than strength training or certain sports activities (e.g., tennis).

Types of Exercise

Exercise has been shown to be highly effective in helping to reduce depression and anxiety. Studies have shown the types of exercise that are most beneficial can vary depending on the individual. Low impact exercises such as yoga and tai chi can provide the relaxation and mindfulness needed to help with stress and depression. High intensity interval training can also help with an endorphin release, providing a natural rush of happiness. Let’s take a closer look at the types of exercise that can help with depression.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is any activity that uses large muscle groups and that can be maintained continuously for at least 10 minutes. This type of exercise raises your heart rate and can help improve physical and mental health. It can also have specific anti-depressant effects – studies have found that aerobic exercise sustainably increases serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain.

Importantly, aerobic exercise produces noticeable changes in the body’s physiology after relatively short periods of time – as little as four weeks. Aerobic exercises include walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing machine use, skipping rope and kickboxing. Ideally these activities should be done 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each session for depression relief to be seen.

Strength training

Strength training is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance. It is a form of exercise that increases muscular strength and endurance by gradually creating overloads on the muscles through the use of weights or other resistance. This type of exercise is often used by those interested in increasing their muscle mass, improving their body composition, toning their bodies, or those who want to build muscular strength and endurance.

In addition to increased muscle strength and endurance, strength training can also be beneficial for improving flexibility, coordination, balance and agility. To benefit from strength training it should be done three to four times per week using set patterns and with adequate rest periods in between each routine.

The most common equipment used for strength training are barbells, dumbbells, weight benches and machines; however there are more creative ways to construct your own home gym setup using household items such as water bottles filled with sand or rocks. Additionally, repetitive movements with bodyweight exercises such as squats or push ups can also be completed to increase muscle size or endurance. Whether you opt to incorporate free weights into your routine or just complete bodyweight exercises consistently each week will depend on your goals and budget available for purchasing equipment.


Yoga is an ancient practice that combines physical poses, breathing exercises, and meditation. Practicing yoga can enhance your physical and mental health by improving your strength and balance while helping you destress. As a form of exercise, yoga has been shown to have many positive effects on mood that may contribute to better mental health. Studies have found that yoga can improve symptoms of depression in adults and adolescents, reduce stress levels, increase feelings of well-being, relief from anxiety, and help with the management of chronic pain.

Yoga classes typically encourage participants to pay attention to the present moment through meditation and mindful breathing. This type of exercise helps refocus the mind instead of ruminating on stressful thoughts or life problems. In addition to bringing about emotional healing, yoga also encourages participants to be gentle with themselves and accept their emotional state as it is in the present moment—and this may include sadness or low moods.

Research Findings

Studies have found a link between working out and improved mental health. Exercise can help reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Regular exercise has also been linked to decreased feelings of depression and increased feelings of confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, research has shown that regular physical activity can improve one’s quality of sleep. In this section, we will discuss the research findings on the impact of working out on depression.

Studies on exercise and depression

There have been a number of studies that have looked into the relationship between working out and depression. Many of these studies have provided interesting results, which shed light on the potential benefits that exercising can bring to those dealing with depression.

A 2019 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that exercising regularly is one of the most effective ways to reduce symptoms of depression. The study showed that even modest changes in exercise were associated with greater reductions in depression symptoms over time, when compared to other treatments including medication and psychotherapy.

In another 2018 study published in the journal Depression Research & Treatment, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that engaging in regular physical activity was associated with significant decreases in depressive symptoms within 3 months. The researchers concluded that increasing physical activity led to improved well-being and decreased feelings of fatigue and helplessness among people who battle depression.

The impact that exercise can make on an individual’s mental health has been well documented with numerous studies showing its positive effects on mood, stress levels and sense of wellbeing. With further research still needed, it appears that for those looking for a natural approach to manage their depressive symptoms, exercising may be a viable option worth considering.

Studies on exercise and anxiety

Scientific research suggests that exercise can be an effective means to reduce signs of anxiety. According to a 2015 study published in the journal, Public Health, there is evidence to suggest that engaging in short bouts of aerobic exercise is associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety in adults dealing with mood disorders. This was also true for individuals who were previously sedentary.

Additionally, a 2006 review published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined 29 trials on exercise and depression and found that overall physical activity resulted in lower rates of depression and higher quality of life. While this review suggested that depression appears to respond better to regular and long-term bouts of exercising, it also observed strong evidence for improving mental health from even just one session.

Overall, findings from multiple studies on exercise and anxiety point to decreased feelings of tension, fewer panic attacks and significant improvements in related symptoms as a result of regular physical activity. While the effects on depression remain unclear due to inconsistent study results, engaging in short bouts or one-time sessions might be beneficial depending on the individual’s circumstances.

Tips for Getting Started

Exercising is a great way to lift mood and improve mental wellness, and it can be a great way to combat depression. Exercise has the potential to improve mental clarity, reduce stress and help with depression symptoms. The best way to start is to establish an exercise routine that works for you. In this article, we will look at some tips on how to get started working out to improve your mental wellness.

Find an exercise you enjoy

When you’re first starting out, it’s important to find an exercise that you actually enjoy. Engaging in physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore — it can be something that’s fun, uplifting, and energizing. This can help you stay motivated and increase the chances of you sticking with your workout routine for the long haul.

There are many different types of exercise and activities that can help ease depression symptoms, from running to yoga classes to brisk walking and weightlifting. Think of exercises that make you feel good while doing them — they don’t have to be anything strenuous — as long as they focus on getting your heart rate up and engaging multiple muscle groups.

These types of exercises also have greater benefit in terms of mental health since they release endorphins—the body’s natural ‘feel-good’ hormone. Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain and produce positive effects such as reducing stress, anxiety, fear and pain relief — all which are useful when combating depression symptoms. Other forms of exercise may also help improve your mood (like swimming or dancing) so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Start small and build up gradually

One of the best ways to get started on a regular exercise plan is by starting small and building up gradually. For those who have depression, this is especially important because of the heightened fatigue and lowered motivation levels associated with the condition. Committing to exercising for even five minutes a day can be beneficial in building an exercise habit. Additionally, setting realistic goals in terms of intensity, duration, or even frequency can make exercise more manageable as you ease into a routine.

For those with depression, it can be helpful to focus on how exercise can improve your mood rather than how it can improve your physical appearance or weight. A shift in mindset from seeing physical activity as something you “have to” do rather than something that will have positive benefits on your mental health can be beneficial when trying to start an exercise habit. Exercise has been proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and over time could even improve mood disorder symptoms like low self-confidence, irritability and sadness. When pairing structured physical activity with talk therapy or behavioral therapy treatments for depression, individuals may find better success towards feeling happiness and fulfillment in life again.

Starting small when building up your exercise routine does not mean that you have to stick with easy exercises all the time; gradually increasing the amount of work you do each day or week is important so that you can continue to see the improvement. This prevents discouragement if harder exercises feel too overwhelming or seem initially impossible (though they may not be!). Working out even at low intensity releases endorphins which are associated with improved moods; finding activities which feel personally fulfilling will make working out more enjoyable and easier over time rather than experiencing it as a chore filled with negative emotions.

Set realistic goals

Setting realistic goals is essential to any successful workout plan. Many people may have the goal of hitting the gym every day, but it is important to realize this may not be realistic or sustainable. Aiming for three days a week to start and then adjusting as time goes on can help build consistent habits. Making sure goals are achievable and specific can aid in motivating regular exercise. Specifically, setting sub-goals such as running a 5K, increasing the weight you lift on your shoulder press, or selecting a certain amount of time for a yoga session can make it easier to reach larger fitness objectives. It is also helpful to lay out what type of workout you will do for each day of the week so that it is easy to motivate yourself and stay on track with any progress you are making. Working out in brief 30-minute intervals broken up throughout the day could be easier to manage than a single two-hour session each evening, for example. It is important that whatever goals you set feel appropriate given your current lifestyle and capabilities.

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