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Exercise Is a Powerful Treatment for Depression

Finding motivation to exercise when you are depressed can be difficult.  However, exercise can be one of the best things you can do for your mental health.    

Consider these facts:

  • Regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication for mild to moderate depression.
  • Exercise boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin (similar to many antidepressant medications).
  • Exercise decreases the stress hormone cortisol, which tends to be elevated in people who have depression.
  • Depression tends to increase inflammatory markers in the blood, and exercise helps lower this inflammation.
  • Antidepressant medications have been found to work more effectively in those who exercised regularly
  • Exercise may decrease the need for higher doses of antidepressant medications
  • The positive impact of exercise is true for many different types of activities, from running, strength training, yoga, and tai chi.  One does not have to train for a mini-marathon to experience benefits!  The regularity of exercise is more important than the type of activity.
  • Those who exercise regularly may be less likely to develop depression in the first place.  One study found that those with the lowest level of cardiovascular fitness were 75% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who were more fit.

To get started in an exercise routine, find what works for you.  People are more likely to continue exercise that is inherently appealing. Do not overlook the benefits of walking regularly, which is readily available for many of us, and much cheaper than a gym membership.  Consider exercising with a friend or as part of a group program.  Peer support can make it easier to show up.  Aim for 45 minutes of activity three times per week. 


Summary of “Boost your mood” reviewed by Michael Smith, MD, CPT,  WebMD Nov/Dec 201