By Brian Kurz, LCSW

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in 10 adults in the United States struggle with depression. Antidepressant medications are a common way to treat the condition, however the use of medication is not the only solution.

Benefits of Exercising to Treat Depression

Research shows that exercise can also be an effective treatment. In fact, for some people exercise works as well as antidepressants. Exercising starts a process in our bodies that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure.

Over time, consistent exercising can result in improved brain function by causing nerve cells to grow and make new connections. This improvement in brain function helps relieve depression, which in turn makes you feel better. 

How to Get Started with Exercising to Help Depression

Getting started with an exercise plan can be challenging when you are experiencing depressive symptoms such as poor sleep, reduced energy, body aches and appetite changes. It definitely can be a hard cycle to break, but getting up and moving just a little bit will help.

I suggest starting with just five minutes a day of walking or any activity you enjoy. Soon, five minutes of activity will become 10, and 10 will become 15. 

It is unclear how long you need to exercise or how intensely before nerve cell improvement begins improving depression symptoms. You should begin to feel better a few weeks after you begin exercising.

But keep in mind that this is a long-term treatment, not a one-time fix. You really want to pick something you can sustain over time. The key is to make it something you like and something that you will want to keep doing. 

Although exercise can be a powerful tool in combating mild to moderate depression, there are certain symptoms of depression you should be aware of that will most likely require you to seek professional help.

Considerations Before Starting

Insomnia or excessive sleeping, hopelessness, thoughts of death, suicide, or suicide attempts, inability to take care of oneself, and psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions can all be signs of severe depression.

Once these symptoms decrease in severity, adding exercise to your treatment regimen may help to further reduce your overall feelings of depression. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.

Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, please call Life Counseling Solutions for an appointment with Brian Kurz: (407) 622-1770. Online counseling is also available. 

Brian has been counseling for the last 18+ years working with various types of people from veterans to those struggling with substance abuse, depression, or anxiety. He strongly believes that people can get  better and achieve their full potential if provided with the right therapy and guidance. See Brian’s full bio.