Depression and Exercise: What Kind of Exercise Helps Depression?

Depression and exercise don't like to share the same life space. If you move exercise into your life, depression will move out. This is true for many kinds of exercise.

Depression and exercise research confirms that one of the best exercises to help depression is walking.

As Mark Fenton points out in his book, The complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness , "...even if you're an accomplished athlete who has taught aerobic classes or run marathons, vigorous walking can give you the same total enegetic high and cardiovascular fitness as any other single activity, with far less damage to your body. And no matter what type of walker you become, know that it will give you self-confidence, balance, and even emotional calm in your life." (2, p. 4)

Depression and exercise research has shown that other types of aerobic exercises are also effective. Kenneth Cooper wrote in his book, The Aerobics Program for Total Well-Being: Exercise, Diet, Emotional Balance , "...the achievement of total well-being can completely transform your life and make you a happier, more productive person." (1, p. 12)

Aerobic exercises include any which increase your rate of breathing and your heart rate. They improve the fitness of your lungs, heart, and vascular system.

These exercises include walking, biking, jogging, swimming, and sporting activities such as racquet ball, weight lifting, sprinting, softball, and football.

Depression and exercise research has foung that weight bearing exercises can help depression. This was pointed out by Marcos Salazar's book, Feeling Good For Life: The Clinically Proven Exercise and Diet System That Will Help You Burn Fat, Build Muscle, Boost Your Mood, and Conquer Depression .(7)

One depression and exercise study demonstrated that Taekwondo reduces depressive symptoms. In this study participants experienced increased vigor, less anxiety, less depression, less anger, less fatigue, less confusion, and less total mood disturbance after only one 75 minute session.

Modern Taekwondo: The Official Training Manual states, "...not only does Taekwondo encompass physical movements--it is also a system that trains the mind... As a result, in addition to providing good health and physical fitness, Taekwondo improves concentration, self-confidence, discipline, and patience." (5, p. 13)

Another depression and exercise research project found yoga to help depression. In the study participants practiced yoga exercises for ten months. They experienced improvement in depression, anxiety, and mental functions. (6)

In Yoga for Dummies , it is explained that yoga "can help you become or stay fit and trim, control your weight, and reduce your stress level. Yoga also offers a whole range of meditation practices, including breathing techniques that exercise your lungs and calm your nervous system or charge your brain and the rest of your body with delicious energy." (3, p. 12)

So, it does not really seem to manner what kind of exercise you engage in. As we have learned form the depression and exercise research, the important thing is that you exercise.

Nevertheless, as Kate Hays, Ph.D., author of, Move Your Body, Tone Your Mood: The Workout Therapy Workbook , recommends that whatever exercise you choose, it should be one you enjoy. If you are using an exercise that you enjoy, you are more likely to follow through with your depression and exercise program. (4)

For a list of the depression and exercise references cited in this article, click here.