Exercise to combat depression

Can Exercise Help Depression?

While people who suffer with depression often struggle with physical activity, you might well ask “Can exercise help with depression?”  And is it worth the effort, especially when you don’t even want to get out of bed?  The answer would have to be an emphatic yes!  There are numerous studies showing the benefits of exercise and it can be an effective treatment for depression.  That being said, it can, and perhaps should, be used in conjunction with other treatments too (including medication if that is necessary).  See Natural Ways to Help with Depression at Work for more ideas.  Here are some exercises that are particularly helpful for depression.

1. Yoga

Yoga is generally most people’s go-to when it comes to exercises that make you relaxed. But yoga not only has positive effects in the short term: studies show that people who take yoga classes experience significant reductions in anxiety, depression, anger, and neurotic symptoms.

Yoga focuses on deep breaths and internal focus, which can be very beneficial for people dealing with anxiety or depression. It improves flexibility; involves mindfulness, which breaks up repetitive negative thoughts; increases strength; makes you aware of your breathing; improves balance; and contains a meditative component – all of which help to fight depression. Focusing on your breath is especially beneficial for your mental health because it’s difficult to be anxious when you’re breathing deeply.

Some yoga poses to fight depression are mentioned below. Try them regularly to notice significant changes.

Balasana (child pose)
Child pose to relieve stress and anxiety

a)      Balasana (Child Pose)

Balasana helps calm your brain and relieves stress and anxiety. It gently stretches your lower back and hips, enabling your body to relax. Peace and calm prevail over your entire being, helping you deal with your depression better.

b)      Sethu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

Sethu Bandhasana (bridge pose)
Bridge pose relieves a tired back

Sethu Bandhasana strengthens the back muscles and relieves a tired back. It helps you relax and works wonders for people suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression. It opens up your heart,

making you feel light and at ease.


Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)
Upward facing dog rejuvenates the body

c) Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana can easily cure mild fatigue and depression. It has an overall rejuvenating effect on your body, and all the stress trapped in your back will vanish.



d) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog)
Downward dog stretches the back

Adho Mukha Svanasana enables fresh blood to flow into your body. It stretches the neck and cervical spine, releasing the stress in them, thereby reducing anxiety and calming your being.

e)  Halasana (Plough Pose)

Halasana (plough)
Plough pose calms the mind

Halasana reduces the strain on your back and enhances your posture. It calms your brain, gives it a good stretch, and reduces stress. It keeps headaches and insomnia at bay. This is one of the best calming poses for your nervous system.

f)   Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Savasana rejuvenates you and helps your body relax. It reduces blood pressure and lets the effects of the previous poses to sink in better. Finally, after all the mind and body invigorating poses, Savasana will allow your body to rest and heal.

Savasana (corpse pose)
Corpse pose allows you to rest

2. Running

Running is often mentioned as a way to lessen the effects of depression and even elevate the mood of someone trying to navigate the murkiness of the disease. Many people turn to a quick run or jog when they’re feeling down, and for good reason. Running releases endorphins, natural feel-good chemicals in your body that give you a euphoric feeling. It has been found that running is just as effective as psychotherapy in alleviating symptoms of depression.


3. Dancing

Whether you’re taking a Zumba class, salsa dancing with a partner, or just grooving out to some music in the comfort of your own home, dancing can help can help relieve stress and anxiety.

In addition to being physically active, many people see dance as a form of personal expression, which can help strengthen the connection between the mind and the body. Dance therapy is grounded in the understanding that motion and emotions are tightly linked. It is an expressive art, which means the movement of their body helps people express how they think and feel.

Dance improves your heart health, overall muscle strength, balance, and coordination, and reduces depression. People who dance improve their mental health and enhance their mood.


4. Strength Training

Did you know that strength training can help to ameliorate and even lessen a case of the blues over the long term?

People are more likely to associate strength training with building muscle, but it can also have strong mental effects as well. While the physical benefits of strength training are widely known, there are plenty of psychological benefits to reap too.

Strength training improves mood and self-esteem, regulates sleep, and reduces stress, which can all contribute to overall feelings of wellbeing.

strength training

5. Tai Chi

Tai chi is a form of mind-body exercise that originated from China. It combines Chinese martial arts and meditative movements that promote balance and healing of the mind and body, involving a series of slowly performed dance-like postures that flow into one another.

benefits of tai chi


As it requires mental concentration, physical balance, muscle relaxation, and relaxed breathing, Tai Chi shows great potential for becoming widely integrated into the prevention and rehabilitation of a number of medical and psychological conditions.  The Tai Chi interventions have beneficial effects for a range of psychological well-being measures, including depression, anxiety, general stress management, and exercise self-efficacy.

6. Bouncing

While we all consider the health benefits of walking and jogging, we are seldom aware of the benefits of jumping. If you spend some time in doing a jumping exercise, you can notice for yourself how it is improving your mental health. Jumping will increase the intake of more oxygen and this will keep the brain cells more energetic. This will improve your concentration and will keep you in a good mood throughout the day.


Jumping or bouncing exercise is a fun activity that can keep depression at bay. This is mainly due to the release of serotonin that will keep you in a positive mood and will help you to relax.

7. Cardio & Aerobics

The benefits of exercise have been found to make a difference for those who are feeling anxious or depressed. This indicates a very real – and strong– link between exercising and mental health.

benefits of cardio

Aerobic exercise improves blood circulation and supplies the brain with more oxygen. The increased oxygen and blood flow clear the mind, making thinking clearer, improving focus, and helping you overcome minor worries.


For people that have never experienced mental health issues, depression and anxiety can be difficult to understand. People who experience mood disorders know how crippling these feelings can be. While medicines are available to help combat these symptoms, they often can have side-effects. Sometimes, the best way to deal with long-term anxiety and depression is exercise regularly to keep the head clear of the negative thoughts that evolve with depression.

Before you take up a new exercise regime, please consult your medical advisor.  The information in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical, health or other practitioner in relation to your personal circumstances.

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Jenny is a working woman, seeker of health and peace on earth.

12 thoughts on “Can Exercise Help Depression?

  1. I can really relate since I suffer from anxiety and depression, at times.  I agree that exercise can help with depression, because it is really hard to feel depressed when you are being active.  Activity makes the body happy, and when the body is happy the mind wants to be happy too.  

    People who tell themselves that it is not worth it to get out of bed or exercise have reached a feeling of giving up on themselves and that is what makes it so hard to try to break out of that pattern of believing that you are worhless and life is pointless.  

    Something as simple as going for a walk can inprove your mood.  Even if it seems hard at first just do it, it will get easier.

  2. I must agree with you Jenny. Exercise is one of the best ways to kill depression but also many other bad things. I can freely say that before starting cardio exercises I was very often depressed. Obese people very often feel depression just because they are no physically active. Definitely everyone should practice at least 30 minutes daily.

  3. Oh, when I come across web sites with articles like this I just sit and cheer.  What a great article.  

    Everything you say is absolutely true.  Even if you just have a couple of days of the blues that everyone has from time to time, exercise helps a lot.

    I am a very active Crossfit athlete and at our gym we had a girl who lost her husband after 2 weeks of marriage.  She came to our gym for the first time a few months after this happened and started training with a coach and it transformed her life.

    She was featured on our gym web site as a great success story.  Fitness helps depression no question about it.

    Thanks for the article

  4. I am in 100% agreement that exercise can help with depression. The release of endorphins that happens during exercise cannot be matched by any anti-depressant drug! Of course, Yoga is my least favorite! I try so hard to get the poses correct that I grow to dread the days that I have Yoga scheduled! I do like child’s pose, downward facing dog, and the corpse pose looks easy enough! I also like the cat stretch.

    I haven’t run more than a block in about 30 years, but I often think about running and feel really relaxed after the thought passes! Seriously though, I do a lot of walking and dancing with my granddaughter. Having a grandchild living with you can keep you hopping all the time! I do some weight training, although not like I did in my younger years. I use a max of ten pound weights now. But I still feel the stress of the day lift when I lift.

    My absolute favorite workout, though, is P90X. It’s an oldie, but a goodie! It puts me in a great mood after I have done this very hard workout. My granddaughter and I have also recently started kickboxing. She can kick over her head, while I can kick just slightly above the ankle! Both of us also enjoy bouncing on the small trampoline we have.

  5. Strength training is my go to exercise and I get so much out of it including good mental health, a feeling of accomplishment and feeling physically strong and more relaxed between workouts. Tai Chi also looks interesting, but I have never tried it, might be real good after a strength training routine. Thank you for an informative post and encouragement to improve my mental health with exercise.

  6. Jenny,
    I liked your article very much. I’m not a lover of exercise, but reading your article might encourage me to get in the groove and move.
    Exploring the possibilities of exercise being helpful in combating depression and anxiety is new to me. I like the thought that using exercise and depending a little less on medication can elevate the mind to move away from negative thoughts.
    Your explanations were very clear and your pictures were most helpful. Thank you for writing this .

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