iCliniq logo

Ask a Doctor Online Now

HomeHealth articlesdepressionWhat Kind of Exercise Is Good for Depression?

Tackle Depression With Exercise

Verified dataVerified data
Tackle Depression With Exercise

4 min read


Exercise functions as an effective method to fight depression and to feel better mentally and emotionally.

Written by

Dr. Ashok Kumar

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At October 15, 2014
Reviewed AtApril 5, 2024


Depression is one of the most common medical issues worldwide that is stretching its arms vigorously. Standard treatments and generic medicines have not been effective in preventing the further occurrence of this condition. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can take months to provide a significant beneficial outcome. Other than this, the side effects of these antidepressant drugs are a further concern based on the individual patient's physical and mental health status. In order to achieve complete disappearance (remission), one-third of patients require a combination of two or more different drugs. Despite that, about one in three depressed individuals do not improve with available medicines.

How Does Exercise Help With Depression?

A number of research studies have shown that regular exercise could be of high potential in the management of depression or symptoms of depression. Additionally, exercise has been linked with remarkable positive and very few negative effects, if any, on other disorders. From a neurological point of view, engagement in exercise has been shown to be linked with improvement of hippocampal volume, increased blood supply to the prefrontal cortex, and accentuation of brain mediators such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

On the other hand, the study of depressed individual's brains demonstrated that the hippocampus and prefrontal areas of the brain are one of the most severely affected areas in depressed patients. It has been hypothesized that if exercise and depression have opposite effects on brain areas that play a significant role in the causation of depression, then exercise must counter the symptoms of depression by increasing the volume and, most importantly, functioning of involved brain areas.

Is Exercise More Effective Than Antidepressant Medications?

Importantly, data from several research centers have indicated that exercise is just as effective as antidepressant medications in the management of depressive disorders. Furthermore, engaging in regular physical exercise can abolish medication dependence and help in reducing the dose of prescribed medications. More importantly, few research studies have established that exercise is more effective than medication in preventing the recurrence of depression. It is now established beyond doubt that exercise imparts other benefits, like reducing moodiness, improving positive attitude and outlook, and improving mental well-being.

How to Start With Exercise and Stay Motivated?

Having regular physical activity will be challenging, and the steps needed to start with exercise and staying motivated are:

  • Figuring out what type of exercise a person likes and thinking about when and how to most likely follow them.

  • Also, take an interest in gardening in the evening, start the day with jogging, go for a bike ride, or play basketball with children after school. Engage in activities that a person enjoys and stick with them.

  • Talk to the mental health professional for support. Discuss the exercise program routine and how it fits with the overall treatment plan.

  • Do not look up the exercise schedule or physical activity as a chore; rather, look it up the same way a person looks at the therapy sessions or medication to help them get better.

  • Find out what demotivating factors are for a person. If an individual finds that they stick to their goals better with a partner or friend, work out with someone who enjoys the same physical activities that a person is involved with.

What Does Exercise on Prescription Mean?

Talk to the doctor about getting an exercise prescription for those who have not been active for a while or are worried about how exercise might affect their body or health. Exercise is prescribed by many doctors across the country to aid in treating various conditions, including depression.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), group exercise is beneficial for individuals experiencing mild to moderate depression. Usually, this involves attending more than one session a week with a trained professional for about 10 weeks. Doctors can assist individuals in choosing the right type of activity for them. Depending on the situation and what is available locally, the exercise program might be offered for free or at a reduced cost.

Why Is Exercise More Beneficial for Depression?

While the beneficial effects of exercise as a treatment modality of depression are proved beyond doubt, it may also have some hurdles to execute, for example, daunting costs or physical limitations of individuals. Therefore, it is essential to develop strategies for successful compliance by the patient, setting reasonable and realistic goals and preparing them for setbacks or barriers.

Whether an exercise regimen is used as a first-line treatment of depression or as an additional strategy to medication or psychotherapy, patients have virtually nothing to lose and a lot to gain from adopting an exercise approach in tackling the symptoms of depression.

How Much Time Should Be Spent on Exercise?

Exercise should be done 30 minutes every day, or spending more time a day for three to five days a week will significantly improve depression. Also, smaller amounts of regular physical activity, as little as 15 to 20 minutes at a time, will make a difference. Exercising only takes less time to improve a person’s mood, that is, doing more vigorous activities like running or bicycling. Spending more time exercising is usually needed to meet a specific fitness target or goal, especially when a person is working on body weight loss. But the mental health benefits of physical activity and exercise will last long only if they stick with it over a long period of time.

To stay healthy, adults need to do 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. If not active lately, start slowly and work way up to reach 150 minutes a week. Engaging in any physical activity or exercise is better than none, and even a quick 10-minute walk can help clear the mind and relax individuals.

What Does the Research Reveal About the Connection Between Exercise and Depression?

Scientists and doctors have known for a while that exercise can stop depression from happening. Research indicates that people who regularly exercise are less likely to get depressed than those who do not. However, figuring out if exercise can treat depression that is already there is difficult. Researchers have to do studies similar to those with medicines. They find people with depression and randomly divide them into groups. People within certain groups engage in exercise, while others abstain, and subsequently, they closely observe the outcomes.

Past studies on using exercise to treat depression have been small and limited, making it hard to draw clear conclusions; in a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a global team of researchers analyzed data from 41 studies involving about 2,265 people with depression. This study represents the largest sample to date on this topic. The exercise programs in these studies included activities like walking, running, and weight training, and they varied from group classes to solo workouts, supervised or unsupervised. But all the programs involved people with depression becoming more physically active.


It is better to ask a doctor before starting a new exercise program because knowing safety before practicing is essential. Speak to the doctor to determine the activities, how much exercise, and what intensity level of exercise should be performed. In addition, the doctor may consider any medications by knowing one’s health conditions and also advice about getting started and staying motivated. After performing regular exercise, when a person notices depression still interferes with their daily living, seek a doctor or mental health professional. In addition, it is better to understand that exercise and physical activity are great ways to overcome symptoms of depression. Still, they are not a substitute for psychotherapy or antidepressant medications.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which Exercise Is Best to Tackle Depression?

Some exercises can be beneficial in improving the mental health of patients suffering from depression, like running, lifting weights, yoga, Tai-chi, and walking. In addition, patients may benefit from trampoline sessions, going out during the daytime, and cycling.


After How Long Do Exercises Cure Depression?

Regular exercise for more than 30 minutes daily for five to seven days may significantly improve depression and anxiety symptoms. It is also seen that regular exercises for as little as 15 minutes every day may also show substantial progress.


What Three Strategies Help to Cope With Depression?

The three primary strategies to cope with depression are:
- Take support from friends, families, and support groups.
- Indulge in activities and hobbies that give happiness.
- Eat healthy, exercise, and inculcate positive thinking.


How Does Exercise Affect Serotonin Levels?

Regular exercise increases the firing rates of serotonin neurons, resulting in increased serotonin production and secretion. Physical exercise involves a lot of muscle and motor activity which increases the firing rates of serotonin neurons that stimulate the synthesis and release of serotonin. Additionally, there is an increase in levels of tryptophan which is a precursor of serotonin.


Which Exercise Is Best to Tackle Anxiety?

Some exercises benefit anxiety patients, like walking, jogging, running, yoga, and Tai chi. Serotonin is also known as the feel-good hormone. Participating regularly in such exercises induces an increased secretion of serotonin which is beneficial in anxiety patients.


How to Rapidly Treat Depression?

Take short walks daily, practice calisthenics at home, and indulge in dance and music. These may be the fastest ways to treat depression. In the long term, making a habit out of these activities can take the mind off, and physical activity improves the mood via the hormonal route. Due to the relaxing effect of these activities, individuals look forward to their daily slot in the timetable allotted for such activities.


What Makes a Person Depressed?

A person becomes depressed due to a history of abuse, certain medications, hormonal changes, conflicts, traumatic events, serious illness, or substance abuse.


What Can Rewire the Brain to Manifest Happiness?

To rewire the brain to manifest happiness:
- Practice gratitude.
- Get optimum sleep.
- Think more about accomplishments than failures.
- Make a decision and stick to its implementation.
- Give a hug.
- Get a relaxing massage.


What Are the Most Important 5 Reasons for Depression?

The top five causes of depression are:
- Stressful life events.
- Critical illness.
- Certain medications.
- Substance abuse.
- Abusive history.


What Is the Best Exercise to Improve Mental Health?

Outdoor running, jogging, or walking is the best exercise to improve mental health conditions. Physical exercise increases the serotonin levels of the body, boosting mood and overall improvement of mental health. That feeling of happiness makes the person look forward to their exercise routines.


How to Improve Mood and Energy?

A few lifestyle changes to improve daily mood and energy are:
- Wake up early.
- Make a friend smile.
- Tidy your living areas.
- Start diary entries.
- Take regular walks.
- Browse through old photos and video memories.
- Do laundry.
- Listen to music.
- Dance.
- Eat a healthy meal.
- Do something nice for others.
- Do the dishes.
- Put on the best outfit.
- Get optimum sleep.


Does Vitamin Supplementation Help Depression?

Vitamin B3 and B9 can improve depression as the vitamins increase the synthesis and release of serotonin which ultimately help with depression states.


How to Tackle Manic Depression?

Manic depression or Bipolar disorder can be managed by:
- Practice a healthy routine.
- Plan the day accordingly to avoid triggers.
- Do not be afraid of the condition.
- Stay active.
- Join a support group.
- Pharmacotherapy.


Can Depression Be Associated With a Chemical Imbalance?

Chemical imbalance as etiologic to depression is an outdated hypothesis that has been disproven as this explanation does not capture the complexity of the condition.


Which Is the Most Serious Form of Depression?

Clinical depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder, is the most severe form of depression due to its seriousness and persistence. Major depression also presents with changes in behavior, sleep pattern, appetite, self-esteem, and even suicidal thought. These persons must be referred to mental health professionals for therapy and medications.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Ashok Kumar
Dr. Ashok Kumar



selective serotonin reuptake inhibitorsaerobic exercisebrain derived neurotrophic factordepression
Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Ask your health query to a doctor online


*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy