Relieving Depression with Exercise

Exercise is an effective but underused way to fight depression.  Do you know why it works?  When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.  These chemicals are used by your body to reduce pain.  It works much like morphine.  Endorphins also act as a natural sedative without leading to addiction or dependence.  You could say that exercise is one good drug with no bad trips!  After exercising, it’s the endorphins that leave you with that euphoric feeling sometimes described as “runners high”.  It makes you feel like everything is right with the world.

If your are suffering from depression, here’s some other things exercise can do for you:

  • Improves the quality of your sleep
  • Increases energy levels
  • Provides a distraction from negative thoughts
  • Reduces immune system chemicals that can increase depression
  • If you are exercising with a group it can provide strong social support

Here’s even better news, any type of exercise can help.  So pick an activity you like and shoot for at least 30 minutes three times per week.

I suffered from depression when I started my first teaching job.  Any fellow teachers out there know how overwhelming that first year can be.  I recovered with therapy, antidepressants and exercise.  I don’t need the therapy or antidepressants anymore, but exercise is my daily medicine and believe me, I won’t skip it.  It’s my favorite drug!

Check the workouts page for some programs that can get you on the road to feeling better and add exercise to your other methods of relieving depression.



Author: Sue Kauffman

Health and PE teacher in Central PA. Exercise, fitness and nutrition junkie. Married, two teen girls (pulling out hair daily). Love to ballroom dance. Beachbody customer and coach. e-mail me at

12 thoughts on “Relieving Depression with Exercise”

  1. It really does improve the sleep quality! That’s been a huge difference I’ve noticed (among other things, obviously). My wife says I don’t snore as much, I can breathe easier, I feel more rested when I wake up in the morning. YAY, EXERCISE!!!

  2. It’s amazing how important exercise is for us — and yet it somehow ends up on the bottom of many priority lists!! Often, the last thing a depressed person wants to do is go out an exercise, but it’s probably what they need most!! Anyway, thank you for sharing this!

  3. I was diagnosed several years ago with depression. Suffered from it for most of my life. Excercise and self-development have turned my life around! I’m thankful for people like you who spread the word!

    1. Exercise may not be the only drug we need to get better from depression, but it definitely is one of the best. It certainly is a great preventer of depression as well.

      1. I don’t know if I ever really had depression, but I do agree 100% that exercise improves your mood. What a rush! For me, I especially feel it after a good yoga workout.

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