FCHP logoExercise helps to fight depression

Posted April 1, 2010 by Katie

We already know that exercise results in a long list of benefits for our body. But don’t forget its benefits for mental well-being, too!

Research has shown that exercise is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression or anxiety and may even help to prevent relapses.

How does it work?

When you exercise, your body releases feel-good endorphins, chemicals that are natural painkillers and mood boosters. They trigger the euphoria popularly known as a “runner’s high.”

Exercise also increases levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that play a role in keeping your emotions on an even keel.

In addition, exercise:

  • Releases muscle tension
  • Reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Contributes to better sleep and weight loss 
  • Is a positive coping strategy that can yield healthy side effects
  • Provides a healthy distraction from dwelling on how badly we feel 
  • Is an opportunity to break out of isolation and connect more with others

Choose a feel-good workout

When it comes to exercise, it’s best not to wait around for an infusion of willpower, especially when feeling depressed.

The key is to find an activity you enjoy doing, at a time that works for you. Exercise with a home video, find a hiking buddy, do neighborhood walks.

To reap the benefits, research suggests we should exercise a minimum of 30 minutes three times a week at a level that makes us break a sweat. However, even 10 or 20 minutes of exercise can still improve our mood.  And, it doesn’t matter so much what we do as how we feel doing it.

It isn’t a miracle cure, of course. If depression or anxiety is making it difficult for us to function every day, it’s time to seek professional help. But exercise, as part of a multi-pronged treatment approach, can help turnaround our mental outlook.

Learn more

Check the Healthwise® Knowledgebase for more information about many aspects of mental and behavioral health, including the facts about depression and anxiety.

Follow us!

Get health and wellness tips and the latest health news on Twitter and Facebook.

Join us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.