Exercise and Depression Research Reveals Exercise Helps Depression

Exercise and depression has been the focus of many scientific studies. This research has repeatedly shown that exercise really does help depression. (1,2,13,14)

In fact exercise has been shown to be as helpful in reducing depression symptoms as...

  • antidepressants (1)
  • individual psychotherapy (6,8,12)
  • cognitive therapy (4)
  • group psychotherapy (10)
The book, The Healing Power of Exercise: Your Guide to Prevention and Treating Diabetes, Depression, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Arthritis, and More states, "A universal finding in exercise studies is that people experience a greater sense of well-being." (p. 14)

In the book, it is explained, "Our cardiovascular system, endocrine glands, muscles, and bones still function best when the body is challenged by regular bouts of exertion." (p. 5)

You can, in fact, walk away from depression!

Walking is one of the best exercises for helping depression. But exercise and depression research has found that other exercises also work to help depression.

To read more about the types of exercise that help depression, click here.

Exercise Helps Depression Quickly

Exercise and depression research has demonstrated that exercise helps depression quickly.

One exercise and depression study showed that the improvement in mood begins just ten minutes after you start exercising. Mood was found to continue to get better for up to twenty minutes. (7)

Another exercise and depression study found depression had improved after participants had walked on a treadmill for thirty minutes a day for only ten days. (2) Antidepressant medication usually takes at least two to three weeks to begin improving mood.

More lasting change in mood was found to have occured after study participants exercised for just two to three weeks. (9)

The Benefits of Exercise Last

Exercise and depression research follow-up studies have found that the improvements in mood lasts for months.

An exercise and depression study in which participants walked daily for seven weeks found that the decrease in depressive mood and the improvement in vigor continued after five months. (11)

Another exercise and depression study which compared exercise alone, medication alone, and exercise plus medication found lasting improvements after six months in participants who had exercised without medication. (1)

When the participants continued to exercise the on going improvement was even greater. This study concluded that medication may produce quicker relief but exercise yields more long term benefit.

As has already been seen, however, medication may not even be faster. Certainly, exercise has fewer side-effects than medication.

Almost Anyone Can Benefit

Exercise and depression research shows almost anybody can benefit from exercise. It works with...

  • children (16)
  • college students (15)
  • minority women (11)
  • older people (1)
The benefits which were experienced by the participants in these exercise and depression studies included...
  • increased positive mood
  • decreased negative mood
  • improved vigor
  • less anxiety
  • less depression
  • less anger
  • less fatigue
  • less confusion
  • less stress
  • improved motivation
  • improved self-esteem
  • less cynical distrust
  • increased feelings of coherence
  • increased feelings of social integration
  • improved mental functioning
The botton line is...If you are depressed, exercise can help you feel better quickly and the results last.

Take Action

So, it's time to take action. The first thing I encourage you to do is talk with your doctor.

You shouldn't start a new exercise program without first making sure it is OK medically. Although exercise has few side-effects, there are some precautions which you may need to take.

For example, when taking certain medications, you are sensitive to sunlight. Thus, you should, in this example, avoid walking in the sun.

All-in-all, its best to be safe and talk to your doctor first.

Once you have been cleared medically, decide on which exercise you want to do. You may even want to pick several so that you can add variety to your routine.

On Monday you can walk, on Tuesday ride a bike, on Wednesday go to the YMCA and swim, and so on. Such change will make your exercise more enjoyable.

Also, having someone else exercise with you can make it more fun.

The How To Transform Your Life E-Workshop teaches that to successfully change your life you need to have support. Having another person exercise with you can help provide this support.

The next step is to set aside or schedule a time to exercise. You may want to exercise daily. Or you may want to exercise less often.

As a minimum, you need to exercise three days each week for thirty minutes.

Caution--don't start off at this level. Start slowly and gradually increase. At first you may want to exercise for just ten minutes...then move up to fifteen...then twenty...keep increasing until you reach your goal.

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

To return to the depression-help-for-you.com homepage, click here.