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11 Great Physical and Mental Exercises for Depression

Exercise for depression

More often, people affected by depression lose interest in activities, including their favorite hobbies, causing a drastic impairment in their daily lives. Doing what we love and keeping ourselves happy is what keeps us going in life. It is very important to balance our moods, feelings, interests, etc., to lead a happy life every day. It is important to find ways to be happy to fight depression and return to being yourself.

Here are 11 exercises to make your day a little more fulfilling and to reduce stress, which will help regain the interest that has been lost in activities.

Physical and Mental Exercise for Depression

Physical Exercise for Depression


Running produces natural ‘feel good’ chemicals called endorphins and other hormones which help in elevating and improving the mood.

In addition to the stress relief, mood boost, depression, and anxiety aid, running also has other amazing perks. It helps burn calories, reduces food cravings, and helps you sleep better. Many people who are depressed have difficulty sleeping in the night. Running is the best exercise in taking the first step to fight depression.

According to a journal published in 2017, evidence was found that running and exercising works similarly to antidepressants. [ read the journal ] This is because it upgrades the mood by promoting the growth of new neurons. According to another study, just 5 minutes of running every day also helps in living a longer life.


People who find running continuously hard enough can opt for walking as an exercise. Walking every day is as effective as psychotherapy. Walking also is a mood-boosting activity and is a good cardio exercise which is also beneficial for mental health.

For better mental health and peace of mind, 150 minutes of exercising per week is necessary. Even a 15-minute walk will help in clearing the mind and relaxing, rather than no exercise at all.


Hiking exposes us to the beauty of nature which calms the mind and the soul. The interesting concept and reason behind this activity are especially the decaying trees. Decaying trees emit some chemicals to slow down their decaying process, which in turn surprisingly slows us down too.

Forest bath is the best way to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It involves going for a 20-minute walk or a hike into the woods to get exposed to nature, plants, trees, etc. This significantly lowers the levels of the stress hormone. This also improves the functioning of memory.


Being immersed in yoga is exceptionally good for the mental health. In a study, it was observed that the people who took yoga classes experienced reduced levels of depression, anxiety, anger, and other neurotic symptoms.

Yoga teaches a lot of things like patience and balance in life. It is also the best form of exercise in the world for any health problem or any relief. Yoga also focuses on breathing which helps calm the mind and also slows down the aging process of the skin giving a natural glow to the body.


The best way to make use of a cycle is to use it as a mode of transportation. Using it this way helps in exercising and saving time. Cycling to commute to work saves time and gets your exercise done for the day. Hence, this is a very handy and beneficial exercise to choose from, instead of going with any other transport.


Dancing is its comfort in itself. It relieves stress, and anxiety, and helps in being happy.

Dancing offers a variety of options to choose from based on the interests and convenience of the people like contemporary, salsa, hip hop, jazz, zumba, etc.

Studies prove that dancing reduces stress and anxiety more effectively than other physical activities. In turn, dancing develops a good connection between a person’s mind and the body. To many people, dancing becomes their expression.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi involves Chinese martial arts but with meditative moments. It helps with depression, stress, and anger management. Exercises involved in Tai Chi are based on balance, concentration of the mind, relaxation of the muscles, and also concentrates on breathing. On the whole, these exercises which rely on many positive aspects bring out a regulating and happy mood.

If you're serious about making an effort to use exercise for depression, it's a good idea to fit at least 40 minutes of physical activity into three days of your weekly schedule. Initiating and maintaining a fitness plan that works for you can have a major impact on your physical and mental health.

If you decide to do a depression exercise, make sure it's an activity you enjoy doing. If you hate the gym, go for a brisk walk or try swimming laps. Take a yoga class or try Zumba. Overcoming your depression doesn't necessarily mean taking pills and drugs. Try depression exercises to see if it makes you feel better.

Mental Exercise for Depression

Positive Lists

Positive lists are filled with motivation and encouragement. Whenever you get a compliment or an appreciation, note it down and pin it where you will always see it. Whenever you do something that you’re proud of, tape it up or make a list. This is called a list of positivity. It helps to motivate, encourage, and boost your mood whenever you are going through the worst.


Self-worth is the most important thing to stay happy with whatever we do in life. Loving yourself is the most crucial thing to enforce to heal yourself from depression. Self-love makes a person grow stronger each day giving in the confidence that is needed the most.


Make goals, prepare short-term plans, and reward yourself each time you reach a goal. This is a strategy to stay motivated and keep going without giving up. The reward can be anything based on a person’s interests like chocolates, a meal, a small gift, a movie out, etc. for short-term goals, and a vacation, etc. for long-term goals.


Certain studies conducted have shown that most people battling with depression are very creative indeed. Even if you aren’t, it is helpful to start a new hobby or an interest. Creativity outlets can be anything like writing, reading novels, painting, drawing, singing, designing, crafting, cooking, baking, etc. These activities bring out joy and improve mood. They are also effective stress busters.

Fighting depression is a long-run battle but inculcating the above activities into your daily schedule eases life while battling it. It is a choice to stay how you are and let the depression consume you or become a survivor by strengthening yourself every day with motivation. Life can never be perfect, but to make it something worth living is our job. Have a happy life ahead.

Benefits of Exercise for Depression

Whether you suffer from major depressive episodes that flare up every once in a while, or you have chronic depression that doesn't respond well to medication or therapy, things can seem pretty hopeless. If prescribed treatments aren't working, changing some of your lifestyle habits and patterns may help.

For example, exercise for depression is one tool that can make a difference in the mind and body of a depressed person. Physical activity releases endorphins into your bloodstream, which affect the brain and how it processes things like emotions, stress, and anxiety.

So, physical exercise is recommended for the management of mild depression as well as moderate depression. If you exercise regularly, you are less likely to become depressed.

Exercise vs. Antidepressants for Depression

Scientific studies have shown that regular physical activity may be even more effective than antidepressants in managing depression. The key finding of this particular study is that the use of exercise for depression contributes to positive outcomes that last longer than antidepressants.

The effects of exercise stay with you, help you cope with your current depression, and also ward off the possibility of future depression taking hold.

If you exercise to overcome your depression and if you continue to follow this healthy regimen, you will be less likely to fall back into depression in the short and long term. That's a very good reason to get you moving.

Understand Endorphins

Endorphins are chemicals produced by your nervous system. They circulate in your body and play an important role in the perception of pain. Many people call them the "feel-good chemicals" because they make you feel good.

You improve your mood, and when your body is telling your mind to feel good, then everything else falls into place. You need a steady supply of endorphins coursing through your bloodstream if you want to stay positive and focused.

Depression isn't necessarily caused by low levels of endorphin production, but scientists know that exercise helps with depression because it increases endorphin production.

Exercise for Depression: Chemical Reactions

In addition to increasing the endorphin levels achieved, the use of exercise for depression has several other chemical reactions. There is a dramatic increase in blood flow to the brain that can produce both a mental and physical response, helping people ignore an otherwise bad or destructive mood. It also releases neurotransmitters like serotonin that lift the brain out of a potentially depressed state.

There is also something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This is a naturally occurring chemical in your body that protects brain health and affects memory. People struggling with depression often have reduced levels of this neurotransmitter.

When you train for depression, these levels are also elevated, which helps your brain stay healthier, keep your memories intact, and — yes — heal the wounds that can often turn a healthy person into a depressed person.

Benefits of Group Exercise for Depression

While all exercises are helpful for depression, it turns out that group exercises can be particularly beneficial. A study found that a team that rowed together experienced a much greater surge of endorphin than did team members who rowed alone. These athletes were able to increase their pain tolerance just by participating in a group exercise.

For you, this research means you can gain even more by exercising in the company of others. Maybe you want to join a gym, take an aerobics class, or start a team sport.

Exercise for Depression: Other Benefits

In addition to helping you fight depression, getting enough exercise has other important health benefits.

It relieves stress and anxiety which is common in people with depression.

It also helps you manage your weight and stay healthy, which may be directly related to depression.

Exercise for depression keeps your heart healthy and helps fight the risk of cancer and other diseases. 

These are significant benefits that reduce the likelihood of becoming depressed.

    Read further: How To Deal with Depression


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