How Exercise Helps When Youre Depressed

Many of us can remember fondly how much we enjoyed exercise as children and adolescents. But as life gets more complicated and busy, some of us get out of the habit of regular exercise. Maybe, as a younger person, you enjoyed tennis. Or maybe you liked dancing. Perhaps you liked going for long walks. The possibilities for exercise are many and varied and everyone can find something that suits them.

The standard advice about exercise is that you should engage in an activity that will raise your pulse rate. You should aim to exercise at least three times a week for about 20 minutes on each occasion.

Why Is Exercise Important When Youre Feeling Depressed?

There are two good reasons why exercise is important.

First, exercise is important because it increases central nervous system arousal. As your pulse increases, you become more alert. Through exercise, you wake up your whole system. This counteracts the decrease in central nervous system arousal experienced when youre depressed.

Secondly, exercise seems to foster the production within the central nervous system of endorphins. Endorphins are sometimes said to be natural opiates. You simply feel better after youve exercised. So, by fostering your own bodys ability to generate endorphins, you automatically ensure that an antidepressant biological process is promoted.

How To Get Motivated

When youre feeling depressed, its often hard to begin something new. But, doing pleasurable things is important if you want to lift your mood. Here are some tips for getting motivated:

    • Make plans to do a yoga class, join a gym class or whatever activity appeals to you

    • Tell a friend that youre going to begin an exercise program and youd like their support to keep you motivated

  • Team up with a friend or colleague for a lunch-time exercise session

Remember, its always easier to begin an exercise regime if you feel youre not alone. Going to group classes gives you a sense of community and keeps you motivated. If other people can turn up to class, then so can you!

If you feel yourself wavering in your resolve to do your exercise, then seek the support of a trusted friend and ask them to help keep you motivated.

For more ideas about coping with depression see Losing the 21st Century Blues -

Zita Weber, Ph.D. is an author and honorary academic, and has worked as a counselor and therapist with individuals, couples and families. She has researched and written about communication, anxiety, stress, relationships, sexuality, depression and loss and grief. More information about her work and books can be found at

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