EXERCISE AND DEPRESSION Exercise is one of the best natural remedies for depression

exercise self care Jan 20, 2021

Of the natural remedies for depression, exercise tops the list.  We are going to look at why exercise is so effective to combat depression.  

*Disclaimer: Depression can be a very serious condition which in some cases requires medication.  This article is for general information and of the author’s opinion, which is not discounting the importance of professional medical advice.  

Depression touches almost everyone’s life at some point. 

Whether it’s a loved one or yourself finding it hard to cope with life, depression can be debilitating.  From mild to severe, depression is commonly remedied with prescription medication.  

With medication always comes side effects.  What if there was a natural way to combat depression with no negative side effects? There is.  The answer is exercise.

How to fight depression

Aerobic exercise and depression

Aerobic exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate above resting levels.  Common examples are walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling. 

For exercise to help battle depression, exercise should be done daily.  Aim for 30 minutes a day to begin, and you may find yourself going longer as you feel better. 

Exercising outdoors is a mood booster and helps fight depression even better for some than indoor exercise.  The fresh air and natural scenery are good for the mind and body.

Exercise and serotonin

Serotonin is a hormone in the brain called the “feel good” hormone. This hormone stabilizes mood, a feeling of well-being, and overall happiness. 

It is known that serotonin is released with exercise. Specifically, aerobic exercise seems to raise serotonin levels, which boosts mood. 

According to an article in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, How to Increase Serotonin in the Brain without Drugs, it was concluded that antidepressant effects were clearly demonstrated with individuals who showed signs of mild depression and exercised regularly in place of taking medication. 

Exercise and endorphins

During exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.  Endorphins give your body a positive feeling, which in turn improves mood and overall outlook on life.  A good way to get out of a negative thought funk, wouldn’t you say?  

The term, runner’s high, got its name from the great feeling runners get from the endorphin release.  This doesn’t mean you have to do cardiovascular exercise to get an endorphin release, but it is my opinion, any exercise that increases heart rate works the best.  

Exercise and mood

Now that we know exercise releases serotonin and endorphins, which makes us feel good, why doesn’t everyone exercise?  If exercise came in pill form, including the serotonin and endorphin release, it would be a best seller for sure. 

On days when your mind is stuck in the negative-loop, get outside and go for a walk.  It’s a sure way to feel better.  

How much exercise is needed to battle depression?

The short answer is exercise daily.  If that overwhelms you, give me a minute, read on.  

The word exercise doesn’t mean hitting the gym for hours or training for a marathon. What it means is simply to move your body more than you are used to.  

In fact, if the word exercise brings negative thoughts, call it “me time” or “play.”  Read here about exercise as play.

Yes, there are guidelines for the most effective types and length of exercise to battle depression and increase outlook on life.  I’ll include those but remember, you just need to start with where you are today.  

Move more than is normal for you.  Work up to the guidelines.  You have to be in this for the long run (no pun intended) so go slow if you need to.  

Exercise guidelines

  • 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking
  • Or 15 to 20 minutes of rigorous exercise (this is why HIIT workouts are so popular)
  • For example, aim to walk 2 miles a day
  • Do all exercise at once OR divide into 15-minute chunks if that fits your schedule better
  • Do some strength training 2-3 times a week
  • Add some stretching 2-3 times a week

A word about cardiovascular exercise

Some people really dislike cardio.  While I stand by the view it is the best way to fight depression, I want to provide some alternatives you may not have thought of. 

If the treadmill bores you or your knees won’t hold up to running, try lifting weights in supersets or without rest in between exercises.  

You can add a cardiovascular element to strength training by reducing the time you rest in between sets.  Plus you finish the workout sooner if that motivates you. 

Another good way to add cardio to your exercise program is to put in an exercise to increase the heart rate between your strength training sets. 

For example weight exercise, jumping jacks, weight exercise, jump squats, weight exercise, burpees.


While depression may have you feeling helpless, now you know a way out before it gets bad.  Knowledge is power.  Exercise is power.  Share this information with a friend in need and help them along as their workout buddy.  

The Fit MT is here as your workout buddy.  Visit us for workouts on YouTube.

Until next time

Be fit, be strong, fight depression with exercise

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